My day began with a descent. Over the course of an hour or so I made my way down from the mountains. I dropped from 800metres nearly to sea level, then came to a dramatic stop.
After passing through the town of Drama I spent most of the way progressing through the foothills of the Rhodope mountains. I never climbed particularly high; it was more a case of constant ups and downs.
The hills came to an end at the city of Xanthi, where the wild hills turned to cultivated plains.
After a bumpy ride on Xanthi’s cobbled streets, I was back out into the countryside. I rode into a strong wind for about another hour before stopping early, making way way into a forest and setting up camp for the night.
The wind had not abated in the night, so I rode slowly as I cycled into the town of Komotini. As usual, I picked up food for the day from Lidl. If there was a competition to visit the most Lidls, I would surely be a contender. This will be the last one for a long time, though.
Outside the town I rode through farmland. A motorway to the south, running parallel to this road, meant that traffic was pleasantly minimal. Olive groves and cotton fields made up most of the surroundings.
I stayed on the road as it turned slightly south, crossing the motorway as I climbed up into low hills. From the hills I could see the Aegean, my first sight of the sea since crossing the English channel.
After riding through the coastal town of Alexandroupoli, I headed slightly inland and rode on the motorway for the last few kilometres to the Turkish border.
The crossing into Turkey was simple, though with a bit of a wait on the Turkish side. The border guards and soliders were welcoming, and after a while I set off cycling into Turkey. This is my 10th country in just under three weeks – possibly a personal best!
The road from the border to the city of Kesan was unexpectedly hilly, with a headwind to boot.
On the outskirts of the city, I saw a hotel (Hotel Agadayi) at a petrol station. I stopped there and, for 140 Lira (£12), checked in for the night. I was surprised how nice the hotel was, and decided to take a rest day.
I’d been feeling a bit tired for the last couple of days, so I was glad for a day off. I felt well recovered when I set off again, heading south from Kesan.
After a short climb into some hills, I rode toward the Gulf of Saros, with the Gallipoli peninsula visible on the far side.
I rode around the bay, and along the peninsula before crossing to it’s other side and making my way into the town of Gelibolu.
From Gelibolu, I took a ferry across the Dardanelles, the strait which separates the Mediterranean from the Sea of Marmara. Approaching the port, I asked for Cardak, the town on the other side, and was directed to a boat. As I made my way to a boat, someone told me “Bicycle, no money” and waved me on. I wasn’t about to argue.
The crossing was short and, once on the other side of the the Hellespont, I resumed riding on the highway. There seemed to be no minor roads going in broadly the same direction. The only alternative would therefore have been significantly longer and involved a lot more climbing. I was keen to get to Ankara and fly to Jordan, to start the part of this tour I’d been looking forward to – the middle east and Africa. I was willing to put up with a few days of slightly more boring highway riding.
This particular highway made its way along the southern side of the sea of Marmara, sometimes right on the coast and sometimes cutting inland.
In the afternoon, I felt my rear tyre going flat. This was the first puncture I’ve had in these tyres since I purchased them in Singapore – probably about 10000 km ago. The culprit was a bit of metal wire, about the size of a staple. It had presumably come from a worn tyre that had been left at the side of the road – one of the perils of highway riding.
In the evening, I waited for a time with no traffic and pushed my bike into an olive grove. The ground was rocky so I cleared a space, then set up camp.
Sept 9: 143 km
Sept 10: 165 km
Sept 12: 162 km