50 km | 1.696 vertical meters | Category 3
Someday we’ll look back on this moment and plough into a parked car. [Evan Davis]
Carom is the most demanding variant of billiards. Using the cue ball, the player transfers the entire force to the other two balls, whereby – in case of frontal impact and equal mass – both are pushed into new directions at an angle of 90 degrees. Contrary to the physical laws of elastic impact, small events in human life can often have more serious consequences. They’re the kind of consequences that, while you’re enjoying your morning coffee in peace without suspecting a thing, you would never expect to become reality so soon.
An Occurrence At Old Grasshopper Bridge: It was a fantastic tour, and life seemed so easy this sunny morning. I went downhill at high speed, left two bends behind me, shifted gears, and started to sprint over the small plateau in the direction of Kali Limenes at full power. Suddenly I was hurled off my bike and fell hard onto the road. On my hip and elbow I slid across the asphalt, which rasped my skin from my leg and forearm. I was flung across the road diagonally and ended up in the ditch by the opposite rock wall, followed by my rattling bike.
Lying halfway on my side in a posture as if I was still holding the handlebars in my hands, I couldn’t believe that this had really happened. The dirt of the road had dug deep into the abrasions on my arm and leg, which would clearly require some brushing on in the evening. For the elbow that looked like a mushy tomato at the end of the tour, the only remedy was surgery.
Martin Brasier so sensitively tells us in his story about the “Albert And Emily Effect”, how much Emily, “a dainty little thing, who liked to read poetry while sitting on a chaise longue and sipping a glass of cream sherry” hated it that her husband Albert had formed a habit of smoking big, fat Havana cigars in bed. Albert was banished to the balcony for smoking. But one day, Emily couldn’t take that, either. She gave Albert a slight push, and he fell down from the balcony into the flower bed.
Fortunately, they lived on the first floor, so that Albert, who was a little confused, could pull himself together again. A few weeks later, the opportunity arose to move to the tenth floor, “to enjoy the beautiful view from the balcony” as Emily so charmingly put it. The one fateful evening, Emily repeated the same operation – the same gentle push from the same kind of balcony. Over the edge tumbled poor Albert, wearing the same kind of string vest and the very same kind of braces. And thud went the flower bed, putting out the same kind of cigar. But out went Albert, too, stubbed out for ever.” [Martin Brasier – Secret Chambers – the inside story of cells and complex life, Oxford University Press 2012].
It was not the small push in itself that took Albert’s life, but the kinetic energy stored by him that led to this fatal outcome, which he had survived so well on his plunge from the first floor.
And so I felt like Albert, because the trigger to my fall was an Emily as well (at least that’s what I called it later). Just as I turned onto the straight road and accelerated with all my power, Emily jumped up out of nowhere, straight into the rear derailleur, blocked it with her shell which had hardened for almost 300 million years of evolution, and got jammed between the first jockey wheel and the chain.
My Emily was a descendant of the Egyptian locust (Anacridium aegyptium), and had reached a remarkable size of almost 7 centimetres by the day of our fateful meeting. The derailleur hanger was bent, and, together with the derailleur, leaned dangerously towards the spokes of the wheel. In wise foresight I had bought a spare derailleur hanger at www.derailleurhanger.com before I started my tour.
Kalamaki – Kali Limenes – Go for the adventure: Riding uphill from Kalamaki towards dreamy Kamilari, past the houses adorned with bougainvillea, and from the shade of the plane trees out into the sun, two large bends lead down to the Messara plain. With the gentle breeze of the Meltemi behind you, and accompanied by the buzzing sound of the freehub pawls, you rush through the soft landscapes of the neogenic marl and limestone of the Messara Basin. For more than eight kilometres from west to east, via Petrokefali to the turn-off to Pombia, wheat fields line up and create a golden glow in the bright light of the morning sun. They have been cultivated since time immemorial.
Cereals, vegetables, wine and fruit grow beside and under the olive trees, and every Saturday morning the farmers meet at the large market of Mires.
If you turn right towards the south just before you reach Pombia, the hard climb up to Pigaidakia and into the Asteroussia Mountains begins. The seven kilometres to the pass are really tough. In a slight ascent, the road first goes straight ahead towards Pombia, and then winds up to an altitude of 500 metres in steep hairpin bends leading through the flysch of the Pindos nappe, through limestone, sandstone and Miocene marl. One slope follows another without a chance to catch your breath.
Descent to Kali Limenes: Once you have crossed the pass and are descending to Pigaidiaka, the landscape becomes magnificent. In spring, the bushes blossom in yellow and red, flower meadows merge gently into one another and there is a fresh smell of poppy, thyme and sage. One kilometre beyond Pigaidakia, crossing a small stream, you will cycle across the „Grasshopper Bridge“ (which is rather unspectacular compared to what was described above) and enter more rugged landscapes. Metamorphic rocks now dominate the scenery with phyllite slates, marble and gneiss. You proceed through several small valleys and over a hilltop at 380 metres before you can look out far across the Libyan Sea.
You will reach the coast after five more kilometres of the most beautiful descent. At Makri Ammos beach, there are some tents set up under tamarisks. Turn right and go to the southwest for another two kilometres. Voilà, you are in Kali Limenes, one of the ports of Gortyn in Roman times, and the historic place where the apostle Paul landed, east of Cape Lithinion, on his portentous journey from Caesarea to Rome in 59 A.D. (Acts 27:8).
Kali Limenes: A few olive trees on the slope, some houses, huts under tamarisks, men in boiler suits, a seamen’s hostel, a tavern, a weathered playground. A taxi arrives, a lady “du salon de la rue des Moulins” gets out.
Now the view to the south: A bay with crystal clear water, a fisherman on his boat, a supply port, and four large steel tanks on the offshore island of Mikronisi which houses the fuel station of the Greek oil company SEKA, and supplies the ships travelling through the Mediterranean and the Suez Canal with fuel.
It was almost like being in a contemplative version of the port of Hamburg. I sat on the terrace of the „Old Port“ tavern overlooking the bay, watched the busy ship’s chandlers and supply ships, and drank some cold, red wine, while laughter and shouts were blown across from the nearby „Seamen’s Club“. I was thrilled.
SEKA was founded in the early 1960s by oil entrepreneur Nikos Vardinogiannis in Kali Limenes, and means „Fuels Bunkering Station“ („Stathmos Ephodiasmou Kafsimon“). It is a filling station (with the meaning of „petrol station“) for ships. The station is located just seven nautical miles from the major shipping routes, such as the one to the Suez Canal, and in addition to the bunker service as a ship chandler, it also supplies the ships. The four large and three smaller tanks hold 31,000 tons of bunker oil.
From the coast to the Monastery of Odigitrans: In the direction of the Monastery of Odigitrans, the road above the houses continues to the west. After some 500 metres, it turns right and to the north at the small church. This is where the sand track starts. The church of Agios Pavlos is located on a hill a few metres to the west of the road. It was built on the same spot where an old church dating from 1700 once stood.
On a dusty track, we cycle two kilometres uphill to the first pass at an altitude of 170 metres. From there, the path descends into the river valley, which continues through the Agiafarago gorge to the south.
From the dust of the quaternary marls and limestones rises a small oasis of oleander and tamarisk with an abundance of red and white flowers. The three kilometre path that takes you to the gorge branches off about 800 metres ahead of the stream crossing. On the left side of the valley the path goes uphill again for about three kilometres until you reach the monastery of Odigitrias at an altitude of 230 metres.
Here your wheels touch asphalt again, and you’ll cross a small plateau before the last ten kilometres of the hilly road will take you downhill to the coast to Kalamaki via the villages of Listaros, Sivas and Kamilari, which are all situated on small hills.