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Zeus and the bear-dogs

Camping near Mount Olympus
Camping on a beach overlooked by Mount Olympus, this little fella kept us up most of the night barking and running around our tent. Too lazy (and scared) to get out of the tent, we imagined huge, salivating, vicious beasts ready to tear us to shreds. Emerging from the tent at sunrise we were greeted by two very friendly dogs who just wanted a bit of attention and a bite of our breakfast.

Having ridden for around ten hours we choose to end our first day in Greece by cycling on the main arterial road into Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, in the dark. The mood was further enhanced by a dose of spitting rain and plenty of aggressive dogs, that for some reason all wanted to kill us. When we finally arrived in the city we promptly got lost and spent several hours trying to find Stelios, our warmshowers.org host (for what we thought would be a night or two). We eventually met up with Stelios and, as is the nature of an adventure, a tense introduction to a city morphed into an epic week and a half of new friendship, delicious food and amazing music. Thanks Antigone and Stelios! See you at Crete.

Antigone and Stelios playing doumbek and lyra

Pete’s right, Antigone and Stelios had welcomed us into not just their home but also their lifestyle, we hung out at their favourite coffee places, played music together and even celebrated Antigone’s birthday with her twin brother and all their friends too. After being on the road for some time, it was great to relax with them and experience the city as locals do. Plus, we quickly came to realise that Stelios is akin to our good ol’ pal Dave and wherever we went he was greeted with warm smiles and we aptly nicknamed him ‘The Mayor of Thessaloniki’ (only to later discover his popularity has a much wider spread in Greece). So it was a difficult decision to finally leave our new home and cycle south, this time on smaller, safer roads, but alas, still those damned dogs… So with the trip in motion again, we knuckled down to more hours in the saddle, more ***free camping ridiculously long winding mountain roads and hiked our way to the Scala Peak on Mount Olympus. Which I have to say was an awesome sight to behold once at the top – and I mean awesome in it’s proper use of the word too. Breath taking vistas, wild chamois running amok in the snow drifts and we shared the climb with the wonderful Miko, who we met in the refuge the day before. A fellow endorser of consuming food and booze after a good hike, the three of us warmed our bones by the fireside and let the conversation flow until lights out. We followed this similar ritual with Miko once back at lower altitude too and he also shared in our mini adventure when Stelios, Antigone and Carlos whisked us all away to a mountain chapel for a night of music and merry making (check out the sounds man). Miko if you are reading this – we both think you are a legend, and I’m pretty sure we will all meet up again somewhere down the line -plus i have your poncho sac!

Mount Olympus. View from Scala Peak See 360° image here

Mary, Pete and Uncle Sam on Mount Olympus

We were warned by our new friends in Thessaloniki that the roads in Greece are less than ideal for the safety conscious cyclist, largely due to dangerous driving. I think we must have cut our cycling-on-roads-with-dangerous-driver-teeth in some of the other Balkan countries because apart from a few of the daily near misses, our route through Greece hasn’t been any more dodgy than any other country where the lorry drivers enjoy the sport of blind corner racing and for the most part the scenery has been spectacular.

Perfect camp spot on a hill en-route to Athens

We were expecting the dogs. Having read countless cycle blogs and accounts of other people’s adventures before we set out, we knew they would come one day and in Greece they seem to have arrived with an evil vengeance. Not wanting to be cruel to any beast, we hadn’t even considered carrying a defense weapon… bar a stick that I’d invested a good couple of hours and a bleeding thumb whittling. Miko, with a wealth of previous cycle touring experience himself, offered us some interesting touring tips. Tip one is the vodka bath, which I’ll save for a more detailed review once we’ve put it to the test. Tip two is the ammonia-infused water filled water pistol. Several blogs offer a range of advice on how to deal with the dogs; stopping and standing up to them, dog dazers, pepper spray, sticks, stones etc… I hadn’t yet made them leap of purchasing and using ammonia, but we had decided to invest in a water pistol, which I dutifully carried under the map case on my handlebar bag. Turns out that ammonia is a pretty vital element in the whole weapon. As we were cycling through some impressive mountainous scenery, weaving in and out of olive groves and sheep farms we encountered several dogs, both wild and employed, for want of a better term. We heard a loud bark, sounding like the animal equivalent of a chainsaw exploding, and spied the beast rapidly gaining on us. Quickly scanning the fence separating us from the dog, for a split micro-second we reassured ourselves it was contained. Reassurance was shattered as the *bear-dog exploded through the hedge and confronted us. Luckily your hero pulled out his brightly coloured plastic water pistol and started squirting thin jets of water at bear-dog’s face. As I pulled the trigger the jets of water seemed to get weaker and the water pistol also felt like it was getting smaller and more pathetic, becoming more like the toy it was. Upon realisation of the ineffectiveness of my chosen weapon I panicked and threw the gun at the dog and pedaled like hell.** Meanwhile, still with my words of reassurance “I’ll always be there to protect you from the dogs” firmly in her head, I looked up to see Mary surrounded by five of the bastards! To summarise this little episode we’ve been searching for pepper spray and dog dazers since we arrived in Athens.


Sunday worship athens by beetroute
Sunday worship. Athens

See more photos here.

*The term bear-dog has been stolen from our friend Anna who recently cycled from Serbia to Istanbul.
**Throwing stuff at dogs is not something I condone or advise. This was carried out in an emergency situation under extreme stress.
***Can no longer call this ‘wild camping’ as we wave and chat to people who see us setting up for the night.



15 Responses to “Zeus and the bear-dogs”

  1. Always knew I preferred cats! Hope you don’t meet wild cats later on … better get bigger water pistols!
    BUT animals apart … gallivanting in Greece looks and sounds great fun!
    Love you, take care,
    Mum Jen xxxx


    mary Reply:

    Cheers mum, on the boat to Crete later tonight, call Marian about flying out, looking at sooner rather than later as being best for us as you know how plans change! Love u mum, Mouse xxxxx


    Posted by Mum - Jen | November 1, 2011, 10:33 pm
  2. Stayed with Mum this long weekend
    and was told about your blog. Its
    going to take me a time to catch
    up with the travels but what I`ve
    read so far …fantastic.
    You are probably on Crete by now. Green with envy, love the place. Had two good weeks there in September.
    Right.. back to the reading.
    Lots of love,


    mary Reply:

    Hey Auntie Jill!!!!
    Great to see a message from you just now! Yes we are in Crete, arrived 5 this morning in Xania, lost my head torch on the boat though so I have been beating myself up for that for most of the day….my list of lost and left behind is growing longer (must be my age).
    I didn’t know you were heading to Bristol, hope you all had a good time, and it feels nice to know mum introduced you to the blog so even though I wasn’t actually with you guys i was part of the weekend too!
    Any recommendations for Crete would be much appreciated, Love to you and all up in Norfolk! Lots of love and keep in touch, Mouse xxxxx


    Posted by Auntie Jill | November 3, 2011, 11:50 am
  3. Ah, those naughty dogs.

    I really am writing that email today… Sorry it’s taken so long!

    Big love to you both.



    Posted by Bean | November 4, 2011, 10:57 am
  4. beware of the tiger/cats.



    Posted by Mum/Marian | November 4, 2011, 1:01 pm
  5. hi pete & mary! i am pleased to read that you have made it safe (albeit torchless) to crete. huzzah for y’all. there is a strange conservation of stuff principal at work: you lost a torch but found a raincape stuffsack… hmmm… not much of a bargain… it’s too bad you weren’t armed with ammonia in that watergun: it really works…. what great fun we had on the mountain of the gods! i hope i can catch up with y’all somewhen, mayhaps in asia… i will lift a glass to y’all (again) on friday 11/11/11 when “it’s all one”…



    mary Reply:

    Hey Miko!!
    Asia it is then, just give us a head start to get there ok!
    The ride is on pause for the winter months now, at the mo we’re in a place called Rethymno and yesterday we moved into a small apartment. It’s really cool, lots of interesting folk about the place, we have met another Lyra player too – as yet no more mountain chapel escapades, but we will see! The boozin’ song has been running through my head today as we had our ‘house warming’ party with some new friends last night, cheap red wine makes for a lazy following day (a good excuse to check on the blog though!)
    I hope you have convinced Hansa to join you on your next adventure up Olympus too, if she is still in any doubt show her the photos from the top again and again – it is sure to work! Hope the beard is taking festive shape now too, send us a pic once it is fully grown! (make pete jealous!)
    Take care and big hugs from us both! M xxxxx


    Posted by Miko | November 9, 2011, 6:06 am
  6. Hi Pete & Mary
    Hope you’re well
    Have been trying to keep up to date every so often to see how you’re getting on.

    Great sounds, photos and videos.

    Like the 360° photos and the police escort video!!

    Take care


    Posted by Simon Ellis | November 16, 2011, 6:08 pm
  7. Hey Simes!

    Nice to here from you. How’s the new College year? Good to see the blogs fading along with the memory of me ; ). Yeh, that photosynth app is pretty cool, have you tried it? Takes a bit of practice to get smooth images, but i quite like the weird black holes. They look a bit like rips in space.

    Say hi to the team for me.

    See ya. Pete x


    Posted by pete | November 17, 2011, 7:34 pm
  8. Hi Pete

    Busy as ever, installed a mac mini server over the summer break to manage all the macs and seems to be working well so far. Also did my Apple certified training so i’m now an ACSP (support professional) & ACTC (Technical coordinator)!!

    Will definitely be downloading the app to have a play!

    Everyone misses you and says hi

    Take care


    Posted by Simon Ellis | November 23, 2011, 11:31 pm
  9. I’m biking through Greece this summer and am scared s$*^less about this whole dog situation. Did either of you get bit? How’d you deal with dogs, especially when they surrounded you? Enjoy the riding! Thanks for the blog!


    Posted by Meag | January 20, 2012, 11:52 am
  10. Hi Meag

    Fortunately the dogs we’ve encountered so far have been all bark and no bite. I spent a while researching how other people have dealt with aggressive dogs and it seems the a pretty universally successful approach is to stop your bike, face the dogs and bark as loud as you can. The theory behind this is to show that you are in charge of the situation. This has pretty much worked for us. Other tricks you can try are to squirt water in their face, throw stones, carry a stick (which i have been doing), use pepper spray (which we carry, but think it’s perhaps a a little excessive, maybe even cruel), use an air horn on your bike or even try the specially designed ‘Dog Dazer’, which is an electronic sonic device that creates a high frequency sound that apparently deters dogs. We’ve not met anyone that’s used a Dog Dazer. They sound like an interesting idea, although I think they don’t work if the dog is old and has limited hearing. I reckon sticks, stones, water and shouting are your best bet.

    Let us know what works for you!



    Posted by pete | January 25, 2012, 12:21 pm
  11. Hey guys!

    I stumbled across your blog while trying to research spots good for “free camping” in Greece near Thessaloniki. Your trip looks amazing! My five friends and I are on a similar trip right now, about 2500 kilometers in, biking from Frankfurt to Thailand. We are currently in Florence and are heading to Greece this week. It so great to read your posts and get some great advice on the experiences you’re having! Ill be sure to buy some pepper spray before encountering the bear dogs :p Have a great trip and if you ever feel like swapping stories, or just getting to know some fellow adventurers and cyclists you should contact me and my friends at our website fueledbyrice,org, its small right now but the adventure has just begun :) keep pedaling!



    mary Reply:

    Hello Tori!
    Thanks for the positive comment!Just been checking out your blog too, v. cool and it looks like you’ve been having a good ride so far. We’ve spent time over the last few months riding in a larger group and it’s turned out to be lots of fun on the road, a totally different dynamic. Enjoy Greece and if you pass a bearded guy playing the Lira on the streets of Thessaloniki it may well be our great friend Stelios so please say hello to him! He is a fellow tourer too!
    Enjoy the ride xx


    Posted by Tori Williams | October 22, 2012, 10:09 pm

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