I lost my pen a while back, so all I have to remind me of the last few days is photographic evidence. So let’s begin.
Ah yes. The first day out of Istanbul was cold, wet, and generally ugh-ish. The tailwind was the only saving grace, and I managed to squeeze 120kms out of the lightened and slicker recumbent. I feel like I’m riding on air now. Losing about 10ks of luggage has made a huge difference. The road was dead straight, and had plenty of long gentle ups and long gentle downs. Traffic was light enough (it was Sunday). The four lane highway was definitely not my preferred environment however.
The next day, Day 211, was spent sleeping in the half-finished building that I had slept in the night before. The quiet lapping of the waves (the buliding was right on the sea front) was a much better environment to rest in compared to the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. At about 4pm, two builders wandered through the building. Upon seeing me they dragged me out of my sleeping bag and greeted me with great joyous pats on the back. Almost as if foreign tourists are found sleeping in their buildings all the time.
Day 212 was accentuated by two happy meetings. One was thanks to the owner of the small shop above, who gave me cheese and a coffee to go with my bread that I bought. Thanks guys! The other was thanks to Mutlu Polat, who hooked me and another traveller (Hose, a Spaniard walking from Spain to Israel) up with a room in his house for the night. Thank you Mutlu!
Hose was an amazing inspiration. He left his home in Spain 8 months ago with no money, and only a back pack and sleeping bag. He walks about 30kms a day. He has no rain gear, no flash trekking boots. He relies on the kindness and generosity of strangers in order to make his way to Jerusalem. He still has no money, and throughout Europe has stayed often at churches. I have no doubt that he will have no worries in Turkey either. The Turks will take him in.
Day 213 was straight. Dead straight to Greece. The gentle undulations continued right up to the border. These roads are no fun. Nothing to stimulate the mind. Give me the murderous hills of the Black Sea coast any day.
I sat next to this sign for a good 15 minutes. Trying to take it all in. Greece. I am in Greece. Europe. Stoked. Just stoked. To celebrate, I slept in a thicket under a bush.
The next day (Day 214) I set out in a thick fog. Little letterbox-like constructions at intervals of about 500m each crept out of the fog as I rode by. In each was an icon of the Mother Mary, along with a bottle of water. Holy water I presume. Must be some of those Christians about…
The road from Alexandropoli (how Greek is that name!) going towards Thessaloníki is a big fat expressway. I found some repose for a little while when I spied signs indicating an old cobblestone road. I took this road for a few kms until it got too stony, then braved the expressway again until Mesti, where a smaller secondary road escapes the madness, going northwards for a bit before running parallel to the expressway.
It was near Sapes that I met the second cycle tourist I have met since I started from Japan. Hideyuki is cycling from Portugal to Japan via a similar route to me through central Asia. The poor bloke. He doesn’t like hilly roads. Therefore he was looking forward to the flat riding along the Black Sea coast of Turkey. I felt bad for dispelling his mistaken assumption. I made sure he was aware about the torture that awaits if he chose to take on the Black Sea coast.
A photo for the insect lovers out there. What’s the deal with this? Why are the caterpillars all in a line? I never seen noting like this before.
A photo for the cheese lovers out there. You have no idea. You know how your favourite cheese from the local store around the corner is really really yummy? You have that favourite brand of cheese that you rave about? You are living in denial. This Greek feta is the most amazing cheese I have ever tasted. Ever. Ever. And it was the cheapest stuff in the supermarket! If 3 Euro per kilo cheese tastes this good, I fear the 9 Euro a kilo stuff that was sitting idly beside the cheaper stuff. I am in love.
Today is Day 215 (I am now in Komotini), and last night I slept in the garden/forest of this dainty church. There was a pagoda with benches and a table. I slept like a baby. Satoshi, a regular on this blog, mentioned that I should stay at churches and monasteries etc in Mediterranean countries. Stoked. Looks like places like this may be a frequent occurrence here in Greece. With the extra cost of food and internet (2 Euro per hour for internet now), sleeping at hotels/hostels in Europe looks off the cards all together. I prefer it that way anyway…
As always, I am encouraged and uplifted by all the comments from visitors to the 14degrees blog. I apologise if any questions may go unanswered or unacknowledged due to time restraints here in the internet cafes. You can rest assured that every comment is read and savoured! I really do appreciate the mental support that even though I am on the road alone, I am being watched by many.