Travelling by Pedalling


Trouble in paradise

After resting at the campsite for a few days, we are fully charged again and in good spirits to continue cycling. As always, we leave the campsite a little later than planned and cycle about 15 km to the next town, Kavala. We have been in contact on social media with another cyclist from the Netherlands who has stayed here for the evening, we have agreed to keep in touch and meet one of these days. She told us that Kavala was worth a visit, so we gave ear to this and visited this beautiful coastal town.

Kavala is a city with old Greek buildings and nice bustling colorful streets. We visit the aquaduct and the fortress and walk through the city. In total we spend about 2.5 hours in this city, including lunch, and around half past one we continue cycling.

It’s a beautiful day with a tailwind, which is always nice. It is a day where we mainly have to cycle on the main road, but because of the space you have to cycle there, we don’t mind at all. We continue cycling and the kilometers are flying. We take a break every now and then to give our buttocks some rest and to drink aswell, but for the rest we continue cycling. 

We cycle through beautiful green areas, a national park called East Macedonia and Thracie. After a whole day of cycling and because it is Sunday and we have not been able to do any shopping, we decide grab something to eat. We arrive at a street where there is only 1 restaurant and which is much too expensive for us and decide to continue cycling. In the end we even reach the magical 100km limit for the first time! What an achievement. We were planning to just get a gyros but in the end we ended up at a restaurant by the sea with great food for a good price. We eat calamaris, Greek salad and traditionally prepared meat. We also drink a glass of wine and it really feels like a holiday. Then we cycle further in search of a place to sleep. And not much later it happened again, another flat tire for Q. We decide to cycle to a camping site so that we have everything necessary to fix the tire properly. In the end the campsite turned out to be closed, which we actually didn’t mind and decided to pitch our tent on the beach right next to it. There was a shower on the beach, that is more than we need. It was another beautiful day, only the day ends with a lot of mosquitoes so we quickly dive into the tent.

After waking up the next morning and having had contact with Eelke, we agreed on a place to meet each other. First fix the tire and put up the tent and we are on our way again. After many unpaved roads and even an overrun river, we arrive at the agreed location where our companion is already waiting. 

It is a very nice introduction and it is nice to be able to speak Dutch with someone else. We exchange some stories and have something to eat before continuing. After a short bike ride it happened again, another flat tyre, the fun is gone now. We decide that it is really time for a new inner tube and want to unscrew the front wheel, but find out that the pin has twisted. We can no longer get the wheel on or off, so there we are. A number of cars stop to help us, but nobody can really do anything for us. It’s also Saturday and a public holiday so nothing is open. 

We say goodbye to Eelke because we don’t want to burden her with our problem. We make an improvised solution with duct tape, but it doesn’t work too well. We stop along the side and decide to hitchhike. A man with a pick up truck stops and takes us to a car tire store not too far away. Here all the men immediately stand around my (Quirijn) bicycle and gesture that we have to sit down. With some good tools and a handy machine my tire is good again and the pin is secured. We can also set up the tent there that evening and get beers and eggs from these gentlemen, what hospitality again!

The next day is another adventure, after an early departure and on the way to Alexandropoulis before noon my chain breaks, Murphy’s law. Fortunately we are not too far from a village and decide to take a train there. Unfortunately the train is no longer running, we decide to have something to eat first and to come up with a plan how we are going to solve this problem. 

We ask again someone with a pick up for a lift. This is not a problem, he has to go that way anyway, only 1 person can go with him and only 1 bicycle and he only goes that way in the evening. We decide that Nina continues cycling and Q is waiting for the ride. Nina enjoys the beautiful bike ride and it actually likes to cycle alone for once. Fortunately, the ride comes a little earlier than expected and we are reunited again around half past 6 at the campsite in Alexandropoulis. We take an evening dive, look for a good bicycle repair shop and go to sleep. Hopefully the issues can be resolved tomorrow.

The next morning we leave for the bicycle repair shop. We don’t really have faith that it will be solved. Fortunately, the bicycle maker knows how to repair the bicycle well enough to cycle further. We cycle further and we see dark clouds coming our way. It starts to thunder and rain, but we just keep cycling. It is actually nice and refreshing because the temprature has risen considerably in recent days. We feel so alive in the rain with the lightning bolts around us at a distance that makes the heart beat a little faster. We decide to cycle to the Turkish border, because we find it a bit exciting to immediately have to find a place to sleep in a new country. We use our last internet for a while and go back to our beds early, tomorrow we go to Turkey!

The next morning we are woken up early by the police. We are on a path where many refugees enter Europe, but after showing our passports and clarifying the situation, they leave again. It was a bit of a shock, but at least we are well awake. We cycle about 15 km and arrive at the border. You immediately notice that the Turks are a proud people because everywhere there are flags and posters of Erdogan and Araturk (founder of present-day Turkey).

Just across the border we cycle on the main road and it immediately feels completely different. The country that lies in Europe and Asia! Very cool that we have come this far. After having cycled on the main road for a while, we turn off and immediately arrive at a non paved road. In the afternoon it is so hot, almost 40 degrees, that we decide to take a nap under a tree. After an hour of sleep, we cycle on again and eventually arrive at a beautiful natural area. It has a large lake that we take a dip in to cool off and find a beautiful spot for our tent. We make some food and a fire. We eat our food in front of our campfire and are very satisfied with our first day in Turkey, we can’t wait for the upcoming time!

The next day we wake up, our regular breakfast and coffee are gone, so we drink tea and eat bread. We pack everything back up and move on. Not much further we reach the main road again. We have to cycle a bit about this. We turn off again and have to descend a bit on a dirt road. Not much later it happened again, a flat tire at the back. 

We are close to a village and decide to go here. Fortunately, we have become a well-oiled machine when it comes to sticking tires and we can quickly get on with it. We go a little further into the village in search of something to eat. We see a village house where all men are drinking tea. We also take a seat and ask what to eat with the help of Google translate. We are served tea and assume this is part of it. A little later we get another cup of tea. We ask about our food but the gentleman indicates that they do not serve it, apparently the translation did not go well.

We buy a loaf of bread in the supermarket, eat something and continue on. We are the talking point of the day for the gentlemen and they all watch us as we cycle away.

We cycle on and at a certain point we arrive at a water tap where you get 5 liters of water for 1 lira (6 cents). This is very nice because we no longer dare to drink the water from the tap and we are also against buying plastic bottles. We also buy some fruit and vegetables from a gentleman on the back of his car.

A little later on the bike we meet 3 gentlemen who are also on a bike ride and invite us for a beer. We cut the melon we just bought. We get the tip to cycle through a village called: Sevketiye. One of the men has a friend who could help us. After exchanging our numbers and being invited to come and stay with one of the gentlemen next week in a suburb of Istanbul, we continue cycling. 

We have to cross the water with a pound to the Asian part of Turkey! We are going into another continent and we have reached all of that by bicycle! Once arrived at the pound it starts to storm violently. The water comes pouring down from the sky and soon we are up to our ankles in water. One of the gentlemen who works there sees us and says that we can take shelter in the engine room.

Once we arrived at the other side, the rain has decreased much, but there is still a strong headwind. We still have 15 km to cycle to the village which takes us more than an hour and we arrive completely wet from rain and sweat, but we made it. We call the contact and meet in the local cafe. There is a man who speaks some kind of English and asks how he can help us. Since the weather we ask for a place to sleep. He indicates that the hotels are far away and will see what he can do for us. A little later he says that he has found a place with a friend of his and that we should come along, we think very nice. Once we arrive at the house we are inside with all our wet stuff. We are asked what we think about it, we say that we are already happy with a roof over our heads. Not much later he says that it costs 30 €. We didn’t expect this and don’t really know what to do. The whole house is already wet, the contact person is waiting for us because he has invited us to eat. We indicate that we like it but feel indebted to pay. We don’t feel comfortable with this because this is a lot of money in Turkey but also for us, and we felt quite pressured. But for now we go with the man to eat at his house. We were already expected because the food was ready for us. The man lives with two women, an old lady and a gentleman. We don’t know exactly what the situation is, but we don’t ask about it either. After a delicious meal we thank them for their hospitality and indicate that we are very tired. Once back at the house there appears to be no running water, and there is also no internet. We feel really ripped off. After some calls, the water problem is solved, but the shower is also just a trickle of nothing. It’s a shame this happened.

The next day we eat French toast and later we drink a cay (tea) with the man at the community center. We thank him for the good care and move on. Today we have to cover 90km to Bandirma and all of this on the main road. Fortunately it is dry but the wind is still strong, exactly from the direction we have to go. After 20km we look at each other, Nina indicates that she has pains everywhere after a bad night and decides to stop at a gas station to find a lift. We speak to the first truck driver, but he cannot help us. An employee comes to us and asks what is going on. We explain the situation, he tells us to sit down, gives us tea and internet from his phone and says he will arrange it for us. After about an hour he succeeded, we have a lift to Bandirma!

The truck driver is super nice and has a beautiful cockpit. We have to take off our shoes because he considers it his home, and that is the custom here. We drive about an hour to Bandirma. He drops us off. He wanted to take us to the boat, but we declined because otherwise he would have to drive all the way into town in his big car.

We go to a cafe with internet to arrange a place to sleep. We find a super hotel for 22€, which we are very happy with, but it shows again how badly we were ripped off the night before. But it is a teaching moment for us. We could have handled the situation differently. We decide to go into town for a while. It turns out to be a national holiday: youth and sports day (commemoration of Ataturk). The whole city is buzzing with life and we enjoy street food and live music. A little later we go somewhere to eat (which was delicious) and then go to sleep. Catch the boat to Istanbul tomorrow!

The next morning we are treated to a super breakfast. It is typical Turkish and there is a lot of choice. We brag 3 times and enjoy the view over the sea. We check out and go to the terminal where our boat will depart to buy a ticket. We can only go to Istanbul in a few hours, so we decide to walk through the city. At 15:30 we take the boat! We are both really excited to explore the metropolis that is Istanbul!