Wednesday 05.06.2002 - Departure

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We picked a good day to leave Belgium: when we gather at the airport it's raining all over the country.

There is no direct flight Brussels-Kefalonia, so we booked a connecting flight Brussels-Athens-Kefalonia with Olympic Airlines. Our bad experience with Electra last year made us rather reluctant to fly with Greek companies but this flight is very satisfying. Since it's a scheduled flight the ticket price is a bit more expensive but people with long legs will certainly appreciate the luxury to be able to stretch them.

After a 3,5 hour flight, we arrive at Athens airport.
We left Belgium with a short delay so we have to hurry up to get the connecting flight; hopefully luggage gets there in time as well. A missing passenger gives the Greek some extra time, but the plane is waiting in the burning sun and it is getting quite hot inside. A good training for our trip though!

Our propeller aircraft

The propeller aircraft takes us to Kefalonia in 1 hour. Alain doesn't really feel at ease, but we don't crash. Just before landing, the plane makes a long bend over the island, giving us a nice overview of it all. The mountain Enos immediately attracts our attention. Within a couple of days we will be climbing this 1620 m high beauty. Looks like a REAL challenge from up here.

It is not really busy at the small airport, our plane is the last but one standing on the tarmac. Luggage soon arrives. When leaving the airport, the taxi drivers gather around us. They are with five of them, preceded by their manager. He asks for our destination and shows us to our cab.

Our destination is Panbike, the bike rental shop in Argostoli we found on the internet. We can't give an exact address to the cab driver big problem - but we then recall having printed T-shirts with the Panbike logo in our luggage, mentioning the required information. After some back and forward screaming amongst the drivers, the problem seems to be solved. Our driver takes us straight to the shop.

During the taxi drive we can notice the peace on this island, even the touristy place Lassi doesn't appear to be very busy.

Panbike is already closed, but in this case we were told to call Pantelis Ioannides, the Greek wheeler champion and owner of the shop. He sounds happy to hear we arrived at the shop without any problems and he will be there in twenty minutes. We use this time to put the luggage from our suitcase into the bike bags.
Great, everything is still going according to plan.

Pantelis appears to be a very nice guy. He's impressed by our T-shirts, which we had especially printed for this trip just as we did last year. The Panbike logo is mentioned as promised.
He immediately gives us his last T-shirt of the Kefalonia trip he yearly organises. It's a 2-day trip of +/- 240 km, no competition, just for fun.

The bikes look good, rather a bit small at first sight, but after some tuning, adjusting and testing they are okay.

Pantelis with his bikes

Some technical details: Piet's bike (lucky him) is a fairly new Ideal Hillmaster with 21 speed Shimano Alesa group and a RST front suspension. Gert and Alain have a Haros-bike with 21 speed Shimano Deore LX group. Gert's bike also has front suspension. The three bikes have Vuelta rims type Airline 1 with Michelin tires type WildGripper City. Each bike is equipped with a strong luggage carrier.

Pantelis also provides us with 3 padlocks, 4 inner tubes, a bicycle pump and a spray for instant tire repair.

We suggest paying for the bikes straight away, which he refuses.
"You have good eyes." he says and trusts us blindly. We decide to pay for the bikes when we get back.

Pantelis accompanies us on our way to hotel Mouikis, carrying our empty suitcase on the back of his bike. In Argostoli they're all friends, everyone knows one another so Pantelis knows the hotel owner as well. The suitcase will stay at the hotel during our trip.
We say goodbye and have a look at our large room.

Close to the green centrally located square we pick one of the numerous restaurants. An Englishman has been looking at our T-shirts for a while now and asks us what we're up to. We explain to him the whole bike-xp idea and there's already our first fan on Kefalonia!

Writing our travelogue

While having a cool glass of wine Piet takes the first notes and we drink to a good start of the trip.