Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Huddersfield to Istanbul Day 16.

Sunday 3 June.  Day 16.
Xanthi to Malkara  133 miles.

Well its another bright morning in Xanthi, as I'm coming out of hotel there are a coach full boarding their coach (I wonder where they are off too today?) Its also very quiet, its Sunday but I have lost track of the days all I have looked at is how many days to go really.

I make the cycle back to get back onto the motorway again, hoping its going to be as flat as yesterday and I can get some miles in again.    I'm back onto the motorway and first car that goes past is Police ! but its Ok they have not stopped to tell me to get off, which confirms to me that its Ok in Greece to cycle on a motorway.   One thing that I have noticed along the Greek coastline you go through some tunnels in the cliffs, some small and some a little longer.

After cycling a few hours I start to look out for the next town,  to top up my supplies,  as I'm going through water quickly now because its really hot weather, and its around the mid thirties in temp.   I see a town called Komotini, I take the exit road and make my way towards the town, just a little further on a petrol station/shop..  I Pull in here and the only living thing I can see is a big dog on the forecourt...  Typical !  and its giving me the eye !   haha.   I better get off the bike and just walk slowly towards the shop, the dog keeps on eying me up but stays put!  good.   I walk inside and a guy is behind the counter I just grab usual water,  sports drinks and sandwich just to keep me going until I come across another cafe like yesterday.

I get stocked up and off I go, pushing the bike until I get far enough away from that dog haha. Then its back onto the motorway - not much really to see on this road, but it does help me get there quicker. By early afternoon, I see signs for Alexandroupolis - I see on the map that its by the sea..  Is it worth going to see the sea, or should I just plod on ?    I turn off and head down the main road towards the town, I must be nearly there when I see a little cafe/restaurant on my right. I stop and prop my bike against the cafe wall, all the tables and chairs are under cover but you are still sat outside so it looked great.

I checked out the menu and ordered a starter and main course and garlic bread - Not had that for a while but I was quite hungry, after this I ordered ice cream with my water and coke cola. What a meal and it was really cheap - I paid my bill inc a tip due to being very good and great service to the family that was serving everyone. I think they appreciated the tip in these hard times.

Back on the bike I now, I decided not to carry onto the beach, instead I have a longish cycle back up the hill to the motorway, its very long and start to break a sweat again.   Lots of water is the key...     Notice I didn't have wine with my lunch ;-)

I get back on motorway and headed towards the Turkish border, on the route towards I headed through a long tunnel, not really knowing if cyclists are allowed through I carried on regardless, as I got towards the end I see the sunlight and the tunnel end in sight, after coming out of the tunnel I also look immediate right and a guard is stood there looking as if he was going to say something, so as I start to stop then out of the blue a mad looking dog starts to run and goes straight past the guard and is heading straight for me.....  Jeeeez!  not again...   I think quickly and start to cycle from a standing position, I think feck the guard whatever he was going to say - I'm off !!  and it took a short time to get some speed up, the dog was chomping at the side of my panniers, while I was swerving from side to side shouting at that fecking dog to just do one (probably made the mad dog worse by shouting at the thing) anyway luckily enough there was a massive descent just after the tunnel opening, so I did start to get faster and faster  was leaving the dog standing now and that guard was well in the distance by now.

Phew ! that was too close...  so these dogs are mental. even when the owners are there with them.  I get a buzz when I was going down the hill now - I'm hitting between 30 and 40 mph so well chuffed. I'm nearly at the border now and thinking I'm nearly in Turkey, should I get more supplies at the last petrol station in Greece before I cross over the border - I do, and call at the last fuel station to buy water etc..

After another hour I'm going through the border with Turkey - this border seems a lot more strict, I also have to pay some Turkish currency to enter the country. There are armed personnel all over the place, when passing them I just nod and say Alright !  not sure if they know that word..  there is a bridge at the border too, it seems to go on forever crossing from one country to the other. I get my passport stamped at the Turkish booth, and the guy asks where am I going - Istanbul I reply - he said 250km to Istanbul. Easy I replied !!

The signs were stating 230km to Istanbul so not sure where he got 250km from.. anyway I'm in Turkey Yeah !!  I'm nearly there - what a feeling. The road out from the border is a dusty and not in great repair so every car and van that goes past me throws up lots of clouds of dust and crap. Also I have a hill to climb as I head towards Istanbul, the flat roads appear to have gone :-( its more like Cornwall/Devon hills now (very rolling).

Its still light the sun has not yet set,   so I carry onwards, I pass a place called Kesan, it looks very populated and a great place to stay over, but my thoughts were I could probably get a bit further tonight which will mean less to cycle on my last day - easier day on final day was the plan..  I have my sights on a place called Malkara now,  I have checked my phone map and according to that there are 2 hotels in that place, so I carry on, and on..  The roads are up and down, but mostly up nearing Malkara, also by this time the sun has set and the light is fading.   I'm pushing myself towards Malkara, and take a left turn towards the town but its up hill again, twisting up and around then up again its relentless, and from the looks of it, theres not much here, so the 2 hotels that appeared on phone (will they be still here, and how updated was the info on my phone map app)

I'm nearly at the top of the climb and start to see signs of civilization some kids run over asking What my name ?? What my name ??  I just reply Madhead - they look confused as I cycle on further looking for these elusive hotels. Its more populated by now and I stop to ask someone where hotel is?  I get blank look so I carry on searching around, after 10 mins I see one that was on my map app, I head towards and enter the front door, I look up at the steepest staircase obviously up to the reception, so its lift and struggle carrying the bike up them sweating like a pig (hope they have a room now) The guy at the desk didn't really speak much english so I had to get the phone translate out and give him the question Do you have a room 1 night how much please ?? He took 10 euros, I thought bargain - but I had not seen where I was sleeping yet !

He took me to the room, after a lot of trying to communicate, and gave me the key and displayed the action to me of how to open and close the door to get in and out.... Right I thought no wonder its 10 euros per night, I asked any food, he said No. Then he went to the window overlooking the street outside and hand signaled the directions to Kebab place,  food there he said.

After sorting bike and room out I headed out to find this kebab shop for some supper. I did find it, in fact I had 2 kebabs, and a coke. I was the only person in this cafe type place so after I had eaten I returned back to hotel, didn't really feel like it was a safe place for me. After getting back to hotel I said bye,  to the guy at reception (think he was the owner as he was trying to make conversation, also he was on the computer) and after I had told him where I was going tomorrow he brought up on computer all the places to check out and see whilst I was their. (great bloke for doing that for me,  but now I just needed to sleep) I get back to my room, tackle the door before getting some sleep.

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