Day 11 - Palio to Apollonia: Two types of people - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

January 26, 2015

Day 11 - Palio to Apollonia: Two types of people

I woke up to no rain, for a change. Had coffee and toast with some of the church people, who asked the usual too-personal questions in an attempt to figure me out: am I married, how old am I, how can I do this financially. Then they sent me off with a bottle of water and a huge, round loaf of holy bread (which I attempted to eat for lunch with chocolate hazelnut spread; the bread was very dry and crumbly).

The road, at first, was along the coast and very pretty, being less developed than the area I had biked through the previous afternoon. Again, I saw lots of signposted archaeological sites, all fenced off. Still no rain, but I had some afternoon headwinds to deal with until I turned inland to cross a large river, then went back toward the coast.

After the river, I came to a long stretch of towns, all seemingly deserted except for barking dogs. There were many abandoned buildings, many just closed for the season, and many I didn't know why they weren't open. There were no people around. I dubbed it the Ghost Coast, but after a while it all got a bit eerie.

Finally I saw a solitary old man crossing the road, who just stared at me with a cold, vacant look in his eyes. That's when it dawned on me: he was a zombie trying to decide whether or not he could catch me.

A few more kilometres and I entered Asprovalta, where two eateries had not been informed of the zombie apocalypse and were open for business. Lucky for me because I was starving and needed wi-fi. A woman was eager to talk to me, wished she could do what I was doing, but had a family. Then the usual warnings about how dangerous this is. The man who served my gyro kept asking if I was alone; he couldn't believe it.

At Asprovalta I was only 80km from Thessaloniki and still had time to make some distance, now heading inland. I made more distance than I intended to because I couldn't find a place to camp, as usual. Once again, people were helpfully recommending campgrounds and hotels 30km away (though I doubt anything will top the gas station outside of Tekirdag, where they told me to either go back down a steep, 3km hill, or continue to Canakkale, where there was a campground--200km away).

It was getting dark and I was getting desperate so I followed a riverside track off the road--and promptly ended up on the backstreets of a town. I should've stopped 15km earlier when I saw plenty of camping spots. But no. At least by that point there was only 60km and a massive hill between me and Thessaloniki.

I talked to a man at a restaurant, who suggested I keep going and get a hotel, that it wasn't possible to camp. I didn't like his attitude. "You're telling me that not one person in this town will let me put my tent on their property, you can speak for everyone?" "That's right."

Five minutes later I was invited into someone's home.

Greece, like a lot of other places, is all gates and dogs. Given the language issues, I can't approach people unless I see them outside their homes (though a lot of Greeks speak English). But that's only one factor. There's no tradition of hospitality here. I'm very clearly in Europe, where non-travellers view lone travellers with suspicion.

This was illustrated by the home I stayed in. I had spoken to the brother as he was outside, seeing the priest off. He immediately invited me in, even though the priest had been there because the mother, ill for some time, was essentially dying. But he had lived and worked abroad much of his life, returning to help care for his mother, and he wanted to help me. His sister was there, too. Another sister showed up, and then another. This last one didn't greet me, just asked who I was. The brother said something I took to mean, "This is the tourist, of course." Like it was natural for me to be there. The sister merely looked at me warily.

Two very different views of the world. I'm seeing this pretty clearly now in the people I interact with.

100km again! It's easy when the roads are mostly flat.

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Today's ride: 101 km (63 miles)
Total: 639 km (397 miles)

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