27th Feb - 6th March 2003
The sun was shining as we left Kavala, and despite it still being February we were in shorts as we pedalled up into the hills to the north east. There was some snow on the ground as we got higher but we were able to camp on a snow free patch at about 650m. Unfortunately we were near a sheep station and there were a lot of dogs about. The barks and howls echoed round the valley for most of the night but they only came near the tent a couple of times. You would have thought that when the temperature is -4°C dogs would have better things to do than run around barking at tents, but that's dogs for you.
The next night was notable for my old boss ringing me up to discuss some problems he was having with some equipment I had designed. He was in Mexico, so I was sat in the dark in our tent in Greece in my duvet jacket with ice all over the flysheet, while he was sweating in 25°C and baking sunshine. I think I was able to help him...
Here's proof that we were riding in shorts in February, and that without the sunshine it was cold!
As we headed east we entered the Muslim area of Greek Thrace, where if anything the people we more friendly than ever. The roads were quiet, and we passed this chap plodding along on his donkey cart.
Another feature of this region was wide shallow fords, often with unexpected potholes in their bed. Here's Ju crossing one:
Then we climbed up into the Evros mountains, one of only two places in Europe where the Black Vulture lives. Note the absence of cars from the road - it was perfect cycling country!
On the day we crossed the Bulgarian border I stopped at a workshop in a tiny village near the border because I wanted to borrow a spanner to tighten up my bottom bracket unit. The man who owned it was very friendly and insisted Ju and I come inside to sit by the stove. We produced some cakes so they plied us with locally made schnapps. Pretty soon four other men stopped by too, some of whom spoke German so Ju could explain where we were from and where we were going. The schnapps went round a couple of times and we learnt a few words of Bulgarian from them too.
Then it was on to the border itself, where a dual carriageway was taking a lorry every five minutes from Bulgaria, and just two cyclists from Greece. Everybody asked where we had come from and where we were going and waved us through with a cursory baggage inspection. No photos of the border because there we lots of signs forbidding it!
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