On Tuesday morning I woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed at the prospect of my first full day back in the saddle. The night before, the owner of the hotel I was staying at had given me the key to the vacant shop unit next door and invited me to park suzi in there safely overnight, which had been a real relief - parking her right there on a major street hadn’t seemed like such a great idea.
And so early that morning we set off east towards Kavala and then onwards in the direction of Alexandroupoli. I think I had been making up for lost time as we covered over 220 miles that first day before I started to realise that soon it would be dusk. The scenery around that area was rather beautiful with wide stretches of open farmland so I decided that tonight was the night for my first ever spot of wild camping! Perhaps I should mention that I am really not very brave when it comes to things that go bump in the night. Due to my overly active imagination I’m hopeless at even the tamest of horror films (I didn’t sleep for 2 days after seeing The Sixth Sense….aged 15!!). Deciding that it was best to face this fear head on, I picked a track that wound promisingly off the main road and found the perfect field, sheltered by bushes and perched high on a hill. The night passed without incident apart from one dicey moment of significant operator error with the stove, resulting in a 5 foot fireball leaping into my face along coupled with a BOOM louder than any explosion ever witnessed at Hiroshima. By the time I tucked up in my sleeping bag that night, I was able to drift off to sleep secure in the knowledge that my own strongly imbecilic tendencies would always prove far more terrifying than anything any night beastie could offer.
Next morning we ploughed on eastwards towards the Turkish border, and after some to-ing and fro-ing with visas, customs and insurance, I was let loose into Turkey. I tracked south down towards the coast towards Eceabat to take the ferry over to Canakkale, then continued south towards Izmir.
By about 4ish I decided that I was going to need a proper campsite that night with an actual shower so pulled into a petrol station to stretch my legs and ask where to go. As soon as I arrived, a kind man with a smiling face walked up to me and asked “where you from? Tea? Coffee?”, to which I replied “London, ooh and a coffee would be lovely thanks!”. Wouldn’t it be great if British service stations took a similar approach - just imagine parking up at Strensham services only for an avuncular man to potter up to the drivers window and ask “where is it that you’ve come from today then? Scotch Corner you say? Crikey, can I get you a cuppa?”
In any case after a quick coffee and a confident if misguided stroll into what turned out to be a store-cupboard and not the ladies loos after all, I learnt of an excellent campsite not 5 miles away near Troy (yes - as in “of dubious horse” fame!). Within 10 minutes I’d arrived and the owner, a chubby man in his mid 50s, made me welcome. After a brief tour of the facilities and a run through of the breakfast options, Uran seemed to add by way of explanation “I have wifey”. Just as I was about to begin to mentally purse my lips at this disappointingly backward looking view of the role of the female spouse, he pressed on, adding “I can give you the passcode if you’d like to connect”. Getting off my Trojan high horse, I smiled and confirmed that yes, an Internet connection would indeed be really helpful - what a dork I am at times!
Later on I entered the dining area for some supper and Uran gestured me over to where he was drinking his beer. There was no-one else staying at the campsite that night so we settled in for a simple supper and a good chat. Uran’s English was very good (the product of a 5 year long relationship in his youth with a very beautiful woman from Birmingham called Elaine apparently. Alas the long distance had torn them apart in the end and Uran clearly still adored her 20 years on. I wonder what became of her).
Shortly before it was time for my sleeping bag, I said my good nights and headed off to answer nature’s call when I had an unsavoury shock. It wasn’t until I was, let’s say, fully committed, that I discovered that the loo seat was made of faux-leather covering a foam interior. It’s hard to be sure at what point I made this awful discovery, whether it was the unorthodox texture that hit me first or the disturbing hissing noise that escaped from the seat as it was compressed. Sinister and dark times, not least because whichever deviant had splashed out on this horror had decided to make some back on his electricity bill by installing a motion sensor on the lights, leaving the occupant plunged into darkness after 7 seconds of “inactivity”. Disturbing times.
Next morning however was a new day and after a brief trundle around the Unesco site holding the ruins, I returned to the campsite to don my bike kit and head off. Just shortly before I made my tracks however, Uran gave me a pin with a blue eye made of glass on it. Many cultures believe that this lucky eye wards off bad energy and keeps the holder safe, so you often see them over doorways to houses and on the bows of ships. I certainly need all the luck I can get my hands on so gladly accepted the gift, which Donkey now proudly sports on his bike perch.
Dark clouds and drizzle set in not long after we set off so after 150 miles of grey weather, we arrived at a simple hotel not 60km from Izmir. Let’s hope that clear skies and more adventure awaits tomorrow!