‘I’ll take a different route next time’: Aberdeen student cycles to Athens
After 40 days, 4000km, wild animals, and inedible food all because of Covid
Kleon Papadimitriou, a third year Electric and Electronic Engineering student at AU, has done what Google Maps said was impossible: he’s cycled all the way from Aberdeen to Athens. Yes, you read that right, Athens… on the other side of the European continent.
Kleon had planned to go on a lone trip even before the pandemic hit, but Coronavirus was one of the main reasons he seriously began to consider cycling all the way home. Other than that, Kleon says it would be a “test of his determination” and a “big personal achievement” if he finished. Only a few days after he’d established that it was actually feasible, Kleon had a “talk in the mirror” convincing himself that he could do it and he was going to finish it.
Then the planning and packing started. Seeing that the pandemic was already in full swing, Kleon needed to carry his own food and camp in the wild. He went down every supermarket isle and checked which foods offer the most calories per gram. His three finalists were white bread, canned fish (think sardines), and peanut butter. Yum.
The sum total of all the things Kleon carried with him on the trip amassed to this: a tent, a sleeping bag, weather gear, ingredients for the most disgusting-sounding sandwich in the world, a fleece, a waterproof jacket, two changes of clothes, tools for the bike, a music recorder, a diary, and a notebook. And if that sounds like a lot to you, you’re wrong.
Then, he set off on the nearly 4000km (!!!!) long trip. Now, you’re probably thinking if you ever got as far as even getting on the bike you’d immediately deeply regret your life choices and give up, right? Well, Kleon didn’t give up, but…
“You cannot imagine how often I regretted the decision. I couldn’t talk to anyone, and I had bad weather all the time. The truth is when you’re in that mode, you’re not suffering, but it’s a definite discomfort. I 100 percent wouldn’t do it again… at least not the same route.”
Once in Germany, restrictions were starting to ease a little, and Kleon could give up on the peanut butter and sardine sandwiches and get some real, fit-for-human-consumption food. He then took a well-deserved one week break in Stuttgart, where he visited his gran.
Kleon says the most surprising thing about the trip was the wild animals. Twice he had a close encounter with deer, and as a city-boy it was “a little uncomfortable”…
“I was woken up by deer running by my tent! I was paralysed with fear, it’s definitely an experience I won’t forget!”
All in all, the trip cost him just over £1300, but Kleon expects to make some of his money back by selling his gear. A bit more expensive than a plane ticket, but a whole lot more exciting!
Before his forty day, cross-continental trip, Kleon never considered himself “a serious cyclist”, having only ever done one 90km race (as if that isn’t serious enough), but let’s be real if he isn’t serious now, who is?