Sunday, October 5 Kavala to Komotini
(written Monday morning)
You know that common scene where a teen comes home from school and his mother asks him, “What did you do today” and the teen mumbles something that sounds like, “Nuthin’ really.” I sort of feel that way about yesterday, but not in a bad way. It was actually a really nice day. I am just not sure what is worth reporting on.
I got a pretty late start in the morning as I enjoyed a good breakfast at the hotel and wrote my blog. I wasn’t feeling any real urgency about the day because Xanthi was just 55 kilometers away and the next real stop after that was Komotini, another 55 kilometers further. I thought it was most likely that I would only get to Xanthi as the coastal winds blowing west to east had limited my miles for two days in row. Komotini would be a gift, but I wasn’t going to force the issue.
As I was leaving Kavala I made a turn one block too early (thinking it was the route on the water rather than the main highway) and ended up climbing up a cobblestoned-paved street through Old Town. I just smiled at the thought that I would always have this memory (as long as it lasts!) of bouncing my way along between shops that had histories centuries old. At the top I visited another Greek Orthodox Church and took a little time to enjoy the view from up there.
I began making my way east on mostly flat roads. There are mountains in this part of Greece, but they are set back from the coastline sometimes only a few hundred yards and, at other times, a few kilometers where farmers have taken advantage of the more workable terrain. I stopped for a quick pastry and juice at another roadside service station/bar/café that seemed close to shutting down for the season. That is becoming a common theme once one leaves the larger cities.
As I consumed my treats I saw another cyclist loaded down with gear pass me going the same direction. A few minutes later I took off hoping that I might track him down in the coming kilometers. I kept a pretty steady pace without pushing so hard that I would regret it later. I was just starting to get discouraged that he was just opening the gap that was already there when a long straight stretch allowed me to spot him just a few hundred meters ahead. Thankfully, he stopped to look at his map and I caught him.
Tom is a young man from Australia who is on the final leg of a two year journey by bike. He and a friend left Australia and began in India where he described a country that overwhelms the senses with the beauty and the tragedy of life. Over the next two years he traveled through much of Asia, stopped in a couple of countries and worked for spell and then decided to finish this long adventure cycling through Europe, the Balkans, Greece and ending in Istanbul.
Tom and I enjoyed most of the day together talking about politics, religion, American and Western culture, belief, atheism, agnosticism, systems theory, human geography and raisins and cashews. We developed a little pattern in our riding. I was just slightly stronger (or actually I might have been fresher. He had already cycled 40 kilometers when we met up) and since I liked taking pictures I would stop take my pictures and then spend two minutes catching up to him. Just as I would catch up I would see another sight that needed to be recorded and we kept this up for much of the afternoon.
We crossed paths with three walkers who were on pilgrimage to Istanbul. One had been walking for 15 month now and was planning to continue on to Jerusalem. We crossed a land bridge that was definitely my favorite cycling of the day. For about a half hour we cycled on a thin piece of land that had separated the sea. From a aerial map it looks like the sea had sprung a large leak and created a massive lake. This section had a beautiful white and red-roofed monastery that sat out on a small island. We watched as large-billed pelicans flew over, startled herons as we rode by and enjoyed flocks of birds lazily rocking back and forth in the water.
I think Tom and I inspired each other. We quickly rode through Xanthi and I began to see that I just might have enough in my legs to reach Komotini. Tom was pushing on too, but didn’t feel too much pressure as he was primarily stealth camping and would just stop when he felt ready to. About 15 kilometers from Komotini that’s what Tom did. He pulled up alongside me and said, “This looks good. I imagine we’ll see each other on the road tomorrow.” I took his picture and then ground out the last few kilometers (in what seemed like a stiff headwind or maybe without Tom there it was just harder).
I have plans to meet with the organizer of a bike club in Kesan,Turkey who can hopefully help me plan the rest of the trip through Turkey. It’s about 150 kilometers by bike there which is more than I want to do in one day. I plan to ride the shorter 70 kilometers into Alexandropolous today and then cross the Turkish border tomorrow.
One last note: I found myself looking at organized tours of Turkey this morning that shuttle me around the sites I want to see and visit while leaving my bike in Istanbul. Not sure yet what that is about—tiredness, wanting to make sure I enjoy Turkey, fears of the unknown, a yearning for home? I plan to ride today and let some of that settle and see where it comes out.
Ha! I surprised myself. I really did have something to say.