January 25

Took us a little while to get ourselves out of the hostel this morning, we’re not nearly as good at leaving warm buildings with showers as we are getting ourselves on the road from the tent.  Had a big breakfast and then said our goodbyes to everyone.  We headed northeast out of Thessaloniki, trying to avoid the multiple motorways which seem to surround the city, but the route took us ages as it was just lots of hills.  We finally emerged out the other side of the climb, coming upon a slope that opened out onto an enormous valley, with a lake in the middle.  The clouds were low-lying, between us and the other side of the valley, so you could only see glimpses of the hills every so often.  We stopped to take some pictures, and I looked at the time and distance we’d covered and was a little surprised – in the two hours since we’d left, we’d barely done 12km, which is not a great speed to cover the 600 or so kilometres to Istanbul! 

However, once we descended into the valley and got onto the flat stuff we could really open up.  For about three hours we were able to set a very fast pace, until we ran into a strong headwind and stopped for some bread and turkey beside some trucks.  The truck drivers were doing much the same as us – munching away – and every so often they would get up to dance to some of their music, which was great fun to watch.  An old Greek shepherd came past with a herd of goats, and he had the most useless sheepdog I’ve ever seen.  While the goats were scattering in all directions, his only dog was standing beside us staring at our food.  Either he thought we were oddly shaped goats, or he fancied his chances at begging.  Finally, the shepherd had had enough and shouted at the dog, prompting him to nonchalantly wander over to the goats and lie down.  That dog has an excellent life. 

After lunch, the wind had died down, so we were able to get up a good speed again and we were soon running alongside the Aegean.  It was great being so close to the sea again, smelling the salt and hearing the waves crash against the shore.  We stopped for a photo break and skimmed some stones, enjoying the afternoon sunshine, then headed on our way again.  Stopping in a little town to pick up some water, a 9 month old dog approached us outside a closed petrol station and started playing with me.  As the station was closed, we cycled back into town to get a few bottles of water, and on our way back out the young dog chased me to play again.  Unfortunately, he clearly wasn’t accustomed to cars on the road, and after he’d said hello to me, he wandered into the road and got hit by a car.  The car hit the brakes at the last minute, so didn’t kill him, and he was able to run away yelping, but I think he must’ve broken a couple ribs.  Wee shame.

We rolled along the road to Kavala for another couple of hours, watching the sun slowly set and found a spot just before the Cape Appolonia.  We should hopefully have a beautiful sunrise tomorrow morning, and the distances are just perfect for us.  50k to Kavala, and 110 to Xanthi – Kavala for lunch and Xanthi for dinner.  Greek elections were today, with implications for all of Europe – will be interesting to see what happens.

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