Hey you lot! So it’s been a while since I have posted, I have been super busy out and about on the bike.
I’ve had a chance to settle into the rides, get some regular routes and it’s been fun taking different people out and I just love hearing the guests perspective on the riding here too.
The main questions I always get asked are, ‘what is it really like?’ ‘Are the roads safe?’ ‘Is it really that hilly? ‘Will I make it??!’
Well. Let me tell you what cycling in Zankynthos is REALLY like!
The roads here are absolutely stunning! If you’ve never visited here before, you may expect the road surfaces to be a bit hit and miss and although there is the odd rough patch the surface is surprisingly smooth and well kept.
Although the roads are small and not very wide, this is not a problem as they are not so busy and these cute lanes lead through gorgeous little olive groves, opening out into lush mountain sides filled with green fir trees.
The smell of eucalyptus and lavenders fill the air as you free wheel through the beautiful landscape.
As for traffic, most greek drivers are more likely to stop and ask you where you are from and what you are doing then trying to run you down like back home! They always give you a beep, but more to say hello and make you aware of them and instead of flipping the bird at you, they will give you a cheery wave as you pass.
Now that I’ve found my routes and get out often, I enjoy seeing the regular sights.
I see the bread man in his van driving down the hill and dream of those oversized sugar ringed donuts as I slog up the 30 minutes climb towards Volimes – one of the little towns here.
The dream is always cut short by the regular goat trail walk where the goats cross the road most politely at around 07:35 every morning. They have been trained well, as they see me coming they will pause and let me pass before continuing to cross the road and carry on their mountain trail, the sound of the little bells around their necks ringing in my ears.
As I continue climbing up the hill I see the regular locals on their bikes or in their trucks all heading towards their daily routines and they all give me a knowing nod.
A farmer sits by the side of the road watching his cattle and will wave as I cycle by. A lone donkey on a rope chews through the grass and doesn’t seem phased as I cant help but shout ‘Donkey!’ in a Shrek like accent every time I go by – although, I am sure I can make out a cheeky little smile from my four legged friend.
As I continue to climb I cant help but notice just how quiet it is, sometimes near the top I like to stop and look down and enjoy the silence, it really is peaceful up here and because of the interchangeable scenery you just wouldn’t think you were in Greece sometimes. One view you can look down across the dried out fire tracks, the rocky landscapes and small windy roads leading down to the beautiful coast and on the other side is lush green pine trees covering the hillsides, this island really is gorgeous and as I always set off early to avoid the heat of the day the views only get better as the sun comes up and encases everything with a golden glow.
I pass through the town and back towards the forest, where I cycle past a random selection of white benches by the side of the road and opposite a stall where a woman appears later in the day to sell honey from the little bee hives that are next to the benches… I always approach this part of the journey with caution, as I’m not the only person to have a bee fly inside my jersey, the little git stung me three times in the armpit!!
All this and more before I even reach my destination – The Shipwreck (featured photo). This is one of the regular routes I take people to – a viewpoint high up that looks down onto ‘Shipwreck Beach’ or also known as ‘Smugglers Cove’.
This beach is famous world wide and is one of the most photographed beaches in the world because of its crystal blue waters.
The island is kind of split from east to west, with the east being flatter and busier and the west being hillier and quieter, although even north east of the island, which is where I am situated it is very hilly and so the flattest sections I can find is in the south east corner, near Zankynthos and past the airport and so on my ‘Round the Island’ route I take, once we can get out over the hills in the north and head south we are greeted with some flattish sections we can try and get some speed and good pace along before hitting a big climb into the west where the roads then undulate all the way back into the north.
The main road pretty much runs around the island in a circle and there are roads that shoot off down to little coves and hidden beaches. It is these roads which I find incredible to descend on – they are long, fast, with sweeping hairpins, the roads surfaces are surprisingly great and the views are just so incredible I really cant help but say ‘wow’ every time I ride down them.
Once you get to the bottom, you are rewarded with gorgeous little bays and ports with crystal blue waters that look so inviting, but once your over the thrill of the descent, you have to face the long climb back out onto the main road and although this can be quite a slog in the heat you are so distracted with how stunning it is your back to the top before you know it!
There is so much more and I could spend hours describing to you its beauty as I find something new everyday I ride. Yes it is hilly, yes it is challenging and the heat is hard work but the views and the awesome descents are so worth it!
Who knew Zante was such a hidden gem for cycling??