January 27

Very wet night.  Rain was hammering the tent from as soon as we got into the tent but then stopped at 7am on the dot.  We broke down camp, happy that we weren’t being soaked, and then as soon as we set off it started to rain again.  What fortune.  It rained non-stop until we got into Komotini, where we tried to dry off just outside a cafe.  As soon as they saw us, like two wet dogs, the lady offered us some free tea which we accepted gladly, and sat outside the cafe sipping on our honey sweetened tea.  After half an hour it became clear that not only were we not drying off, but we were getting cold, so we decided to make a move and get on towards Sapes.

Thankfully the rain had stopped by this point, so we had an uneventful ride along a very boring, featureless plain.  There was a small climb into Sapes, which we moved through quickly, and soon we were heading towards Alexandroupoli.  Before we hit the hills outside the town, we met our first tourer on the trip, a Japanese dude called Eugi (no idea how to spell it) who had come all the way from Japan, and was on his way to Portugal.  We talked for fifteen minutes or so, then after taking pictures of each other we got on our way, climbing the hills towards Alexpoli. 

I was happy to find out that the area we were cycling through was one of the places where the three Via Egnatia (1 – the ancient Roman road linking Dyrrachion and Constantinople; 2 – the modern motorway that travels from Igoumenitsa to Turkey; 3 – the old motorway whose route the modern motorway mirrors) converge.  There were lots of signs pointing to Via Egnatia and as we climbed the hills towards Alexpoli, I found, after climbing through a lot of mud and grass, an uncovered section of the ancient Via Egnatia.  If the Silk Road was a story, it would be the story of East meets West, and the Via Egnatia would be one of the first chapters.  The Via Egnatia was the first Roman road to be built outside Italy, linking Rome with Constantinople, and would have been one of the busiest roads of Roman times.  It travelled through hills, mountains and forests and linked two of the greatest cities of ancient times, so I was mighty glad to be able to stand on it for a little while, as I ready myself for the rest of the journey east. 

The hills proved no match for us, and so we arrived into Alexandroupoli about 430 after having done 105km and immediately stopped at a greek bakery for some goodness – it could very well be our last one!  I chose a particularly incredible cream, raspberry jam and pastry thing which was amazing, not spoiled at all by the remarkably sour-faced lassie working there.  As we had time to kill before we needed to make camp, we decided to have a proper meal sit-down meal, so Ryan managed to sniff out an incredible Armenian restaurant where the waitress told us exactly what to order – lavas with grilled vegetables and meats.  It was great.  After dinner, the rain had started again and the roads were a bit manic, so it was a wet and slightly stressful ride to our campsite for the night, but we’re only 30km away from the Turkish border so we should be over by lunch.  Looking at the distance, Istanbul is less than 300km away, and considering we’re averaging 110km, we could be there by Friday afternoon!

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