Bugger if I Can Make This Out: 120 Kay Commute from Field Camp to Thessaloniki - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

January 19, 2014

Bugger if I Can Make This Out: 120 Kay Commute from Field Camp to Thessaloniki

ITS HARD YOU KNOW, or at any rate, it isn't easy, is a better way of putting it, to sit up in that small tent of mine in the dark and jot down the day's happens with only a dim-lit head-torch, because I didn't buy batteries again, to illuminate proceedings. I think its better having the notebook handy during the day and be able to have it out at places like here, where I've stopped mid morning at a petrol station, and write down what has happened today so far.

The tent is spread out drying in the sun. A good opener for today's journal, which I may leave as it is unmodified. This morning when I emerge from the warm cocooned sleeping bag, unzip and look out of the tent, I'm surprised to see a white frost. The fly-sheet frozen white too. I've gotten over the problem of trying to take the tent down with cold numb hands though. I bought a pair of thin wool gloves and I wear these which insulate the fingertips from that horrible cold feel of the nylon tent material and metal poles. The gloves get wet, but they're out now too, on the wall drying.

I pulled in at this petrol station because I wanted a coke cola. Its now eleven o'clock and the day has warmed up with cheering Winter sunshine. I've just passed, or bypassed Edessa. Bypass is a good description; because, on approaching town, there was a bit of an incline with a turn off left, where a sign with an arrow pointed to the side read: Edessa Center. The road straight on continued a couple of hundred metres upwards and over a crest, whereupon began a resently constructed bypass sweeping gently downhill and around in a three-four kilometre left curving arc, following the vertical side of the valley on the right, with the city visible terraced along the steep slope opposite. There were close to no vehicles on this stretch, most probably nearly all having a need to enter or pass through town. I passed through one short tunnel and further on, met a racing cyclist who gave me a friendly wave, as his legs spun smoothly along up the other side. I've just turned back onto the older road, to the eastern edge of town as the built up area dwindles into farmland. I was disappointed though in the petrol station shop. There were only bottles of diet coke in the fridge, which isn't much good. A bit like decaf coffee, or alcohol free beer. Udderly stupid produces. And I wasn't paying one euro fifty for no zing. I still have half of a two litre bottle from yesterday's Lidl stop, albeit now lukewarm.

One for the road (by the front wheel).
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I got a fresh bottle of coke later at a Lidl on the approach to Thessaloniki. I had made good progress. There being little of interest to distract me from the straight highway and the prospect of reaching the city early, apart from signs at a few places for archaeological sites, but too far off on side roads to warrant a detour. The city is a lot bigger than I thought, with perhaps ten or twelve kilometres of rough uneven street, from traffic-light to traffic-light before turning down a street leading into a central square by the waterfront.

Later while drinking coke sat on the kerb of a slip road out from a petrol station, I was bored not having taken some pictures for today.
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I ask a teenage boy with pop-in headphones hanging out of his ears, where the tourist office is. He doesn't seem to want to talk or be disturbed from what he's listening to. He first moves a pace to the side away from me and I follow and ask again. This time he spits out "I don't know!" Then when I insist, points to the shop window behind us, which is a tour operator and open on a Sunday afternoon. I enter and the lady behind the desk puts her hand over the mouth piece of the phone and says abruptly "we're shut!" "Excuse me. Could you please tell me where the tourist office is" I ask most politely, before she throws me out. She sends me down to the ferry quay, which soon begins to feel like a wild goose chase; because, having had a good look around, I'm stumped if I can find it. I even ask a group of hi-viz jacketed port-workers, that are doubtful that there is a tourist office in the port. So return back up to town where I stop outside a café. While taking my netbook out of the pannier, a gypsy boy come and asks for money, rubbing his belly, motioning that its needed to buy food. I protest but cave in to his pestering. Well cave in a little. I hand him a fifty cents coin. He walks away, but moments later before I leave the bike, returns and hands me the fifty cents back. Perhaps a jester that I am mean and can keep my precious fifty cents coin.

Inside the café I summon the help of the girl serving coffee, does she know a particular street, a hostel I see on the internet is situated on. She replies it is a long way. You can take a bus. The other hostels I look at are the same, out from the centre and after riding hard getting here, I'm in no mood to ride further and also it'll soon be getting dark. I ask do you know of a hostel or cheap hotel here in the centre. "No" she nods and adds "I'm not from the city" Next, I Google and find there are an abundance of economic hotels, bunched together along EGNATIA street.

This time I enlist the help of only genuine people, willing to stop and give proper directions, as I find my way to EGNATIA street; reaffirming my faith in Greeks. The jovial white-haired seventy year-old man sitting behind the reception desk in the first hotel I enter, quotas twenty-five euros. And as its been a long day, I'm in no mood to shop around. We agree on a price of forty-five for two nights. I know its only a saving of five euros, but five euros is, five euros.

On Monday, I got bogged down updating this journal. It is going badly already when I ride pass a policeman in the roundabout leaving Tirana, and goes downhill from there. It when uphill actually, but it just got harder and harder to write. I couldn't just write a pedestrian account for that day: I left at nine. I stop at a Carrefour...There is a long steep climb....blah blah....I camped. The policeman directing traffic had to get in there. It is him who'll bring the reading to life many years from now when I think I've forgotten him. For whatever, Is struggling and having spent all of the morning and part of the afternoon on that one page, I looked at my diary for the following day, scribbled notes, and couldn't make it out, what to write.

Today's ride: 123 km (76 miles)
Total: 9,593 km (5,957 miles)

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