The night before, we stayed in an apartment within walking distance of Alyki beach. We parked up on a sun lounger and spent most of the day at the beach. This was followed by a walk to the marble quarry, where we rock climbed and swam in rock pools. We ended the day at the archaeological site.
Back on the bike, we cycled to Golden Beach – the largest town on the island. The cycle was beautiful – steep climbs, followed by dreamy descents through forests and along empty roads, that hugged the coast. This was by far the best section of the cycling I’d done – better than the previous day’s ride.
We camped at the worst site I’d been on. Full of permanent caravan owners, it was a surprise to see how run down the facilities were. It was also our first meet with a long drop. Should have listened to the reviews.
Up and out of the campsite quicker than you can say ‘Golden Beach’, we found a sun lounger and placed ourselves there for the day.
It was the last day of island life and we were intent on making the most of it. Apart from soaking up the sun, I had a lot of admin to do: send photos of the wheel to the manufacturer, write a blog and diary, and sort out finances. All of which was achieved.
The last supper on the island was seafood pasta, a fitting way to end the holiday.
The campsite tried to charge us €30 for the two night stay, which we refused to pay. It wasn’t worth anything, but we settled on €20.
The cycle out of Golden Beach included a 1,000ft climb over five miles, which was completed with ease and a few beads of sweat. Nice to see the previous few weeks' efforts making a difference. The next four miles was a brake burning descent into the island’s capital and onto the ferry.
Back on the mainland, we rolled across relatively flat terrain to that night’s camp spot. After 40 miles of zigzagging our way up a motorway – Komoot failed us once again – we arrived at the campsite. We set up camp on the edge of the Vistonida Nature Reserve, a stone’s throw from the beach.
I went to bed listening to the sound of multiple hounds howling – a living nightmare.
Before cycling into the nature reserve, we stopped and saved another tortoise from the road. We had just seen two cars swerve out of the way to miss it. Later in the day, we saved another one. Tortoises like to live life on the edge – maybe we can learn a lesson or two.
The nature reserve was a little underwhelming. With the sea kept to our right, we passed acres of farmers’ fields. Again, the sun’s glare made cycling sweaty work. With soaked t-shirts, we crossed miles-upon-miles of Greek countryside until we reached a sleepy village. We sat in a restaurant for lunch and were both bought a beer by one of the locals. We explained where we were going and where we’d been. I mentioned North Macedonia, but they corrected me and said: “No, Skopje!”. We were still in the Macedonian region, which meant the topic was sensitive. He also corrected Istanbul to Constantinople. It wasn’t until we were in Istanbul when we were told calling it Constantinople is offensive.
As soon as we got back on the bikes, we were ready to get off them. The day seemed to drag. Shortly after lunch, we had a couple nasty encounters with wild dogs. There were two dogs waiting for us on the main road, which resulted in a chase. We then entered a village where two aggressive Devil Dogs were ready to attack. Luckily, they were chained to a tree. If they hadn’t been, they would have caused serious damage. Devil Dogs are the worst kind; they are not wild, but owned by farmers. Devil Dogs are kept at a good level of hunger to make them more aggressive, but fed enough food to give chase and attack.
The path led to gravel, through a ford and across muddy terrain. A few miles later, we cycled into an extremely poor village with a square at its centre. As we entered the square, three dogs glared at us and barked aggressively. Edging closer, they were poised for a chase. We pushed hard on the pedals and turned right out of the square, but straight in the direction of where the road split in two. At both entry points, two more dogs stood guard. For a split second, I had no idea what we were going to do. We were trapped in by wild dogs. I could see the headline on BBC News: ‘Two Brits Killed By Wild Dogs In Greece’.
Luckily one of them lost interest, so we cycled right past. We escaped the village, just.
“I hate wild dogs.“ I said to Joe.
“Me too, mate”.
With my t-shirt, I wiped the sweat from my face and cycled a mile down the road. Another pack appeared, but thankfully they didn’t have the energy to do anything apart from bark.
We’d had plenty of dog encounters before this, but this day the intensity had increased. I’ve since read blogs on the subject of cycling and wild dogs. I’ve learnt that slowing down or getting off the bike entirely is the best thing to do. Unless, it’s a Devil Dog. If it’s a Devil Dog, pray.
We followed a track across more rolling hills before entering Alexandroupolis, the last stop of the Greek leg. I don’t think I’ve been happier to get off the bike. The day had been hot and full on. We cooked dinner in the hostel and watched Peep Show before hitting the pillow.
A song had been played on repeat throughout the Balkans – in the bars, shops, restaurants, etc. It was played so much that it reminded us of the Balkans. But, we couldn’t remember what it was called or how it went. We’d try to hum, but with no success. We spent hours on the bike discussing this song in detail.
In the morning, I was scrolling through Instagram when I heard the song. I ran over to Joe.
“Joe, I’ve just heard the song on someone’s story!”.
He replied: “Ed mate, the song has come to me. I can hum it!”.
“Hum it!” I exclaimed.
Joe hums the song. I then played the story. It was the same song*! We jumped up with more enthusiasm than the situation required.
Song mystery solved, we got on the bikes and cycled towards the Turkish border – randomly humming the song as we’d cycle.
Five miles from the border, one of Joe’s spokes broke and his wheel started to wobble. The humming came to an abrupt stop. To stop the wheel from rubbing, Joe took the back brake off, and then removed the spoke. We continued to the border, slightly more anxious about the remainder of the ride.
The border was the largest I’d seen. Lorries queued for miles on the Greek side, waiting to be processed. We sat in the sun for a short time before getting the exit stamp and crossing a bridge to the Turkish side.
At the Turkish gate, a security guard came over and told us to open our bags. After peering into the bags, he explained that he had been conceived through rape…
His father raped his mother.
He paused and then laughed, whilst looking at both of us. We forced laughter, and stood awkwardly not knowing what to say.
*The song was Pepas by Ferruko. No shame.