In a brand new present I found a long lost past.
End of day 21: 7th of May, 2012.
Distance covered so far: 923.18 kilometers (576.99 miles).
The ride to Xanthi was fairly long, but nothing I couldn’t handle. Just over 200klm to be traveled over mostly flat terrain, much of it conveniently placed right next to lakes and beaches. I have traveled through mountains and hills and valleys and more of the same all over again, so I was ready to feel the gentle breeze of the sea stroking my face.
As usual, I set off early and I started riding hard! It was already a hot day, but I felt strong and motivated. I have been hearing about Xanthi and its beauty from many people, so I was excited to finally get to see it with my own eyes. Also, this is a part of the country into which I had never ventured before. All the way up to Thessaloniki, there are some places that I have seen before. Further east from here though it is all unknown territory. My feet have never touched this land and such a fact alone was very exciting for me. However, main part of the excitement was due to something else. Just a week or so earlier I had reconnected, by complete chance and a series of coincidences, with an old friend. Someone I had met 12 years ago in Manchester, UK and we had fallen out of touch ever since. Her name was Joanna. During the years that passed, I had made attempts to locate her and get back in touch, but to no avail. And suddenly, thanks to the internet and (as much as I hate to admit it) Facebook, we were exchanging emails once again. And she just so happened to be currently living with her husband, Paul, in Xanthi, one of the cities that were already on my itinerary for this trip! What are the chances of that?!
I kept riding and riding for hours. I hardly made any stops along the route.
I enjoyed this day. It was sunny, the scenery was beautiful and I was looking forward to something.
While taking advantage of the gorgeous smells and colors all around me, and the constant flow of energy in my legs that did not seem to run thin, my head was overflowing with thoughts and questions. What will it be like to meet up with her again? What is it like to meet up with anyone whom you have not laid eyes on nor spoken for 12 years? What will the first thing I say be? How do I react? Do I hug her? Do I kiss her on the cheek? Do I shake her hand and bow Japanese-style? And what if she doesn’t show up? What if she changes her mind and thinks “Meh. The past is the past, lets keep it that way.”? And after the first encounter, what will our time together be like? Will we still get along as well? Naturally, we have both changed drastically. I already know that two people can follow entirely opposite paths and change from being the perfect match to not being able to have the most basic of conversations. So, how about two people that used to have a lot in common but have not had any influence at all on each other for more than ten years? This could go either way and I was both tremendously excited and terrified at the same time. The main thought running through my head, however, was that I had found her and I was ready to face whichever outcome. She had offered me to stay at their home for however long I wanted to rest in Xanthi, so all those questions would have plenty of time to be answered.
After about 80 klm of riding, I stopped in Asprovalta for a break and some lunch. I found a beach-side promenade and some tavernas. None of them seemed all that inspiring, but I picked one and ordered a couple of things to fuel up. Honestly, everything was pretty disappointing. The service was poor, the waiter had a superstar-like attitude, the food was average and the prices were higher than anticipated. I ate quickly, called a couple of friends to see how they’re doing and got back on the bike. There was a nice beach just in front of me, but I didn’t feel like spending any time there.
I guess, more than anything, I saw no pleasure in hanging out there by myself. It’s funny how my mind works. I will travel alone around the world and back, I will go have a beer anywhere or sit at a restaurant and relax without company, but I don’t enjoy chilling on the beach without some friends. It could be because I already spend so many hours alone on the bike, so whatever activity I choose, I’d like to have friends to share it with. I don’t know. Either way, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t feel like stopping and that was that. I felt like riding.
Soon after Asprovalta and bumped into two other distance cyclists. Woohoo! One was Dutch and heading towards the opposite direction. The other, Valentin, was French and he was going the same way I was, so we joined forces.
His goal was to get to Istanbul and then keep on riding and riding east, as far as he can get. He was a skinny fella, with the typical cyclist tan. He was carrying a hell of a lot more stuff than I was. Bags on either side of each wheel, plus a huge backpack on the rack at the back of his bike. As anticipated, his pace wasn’t as fast as mine, but since I was in no hurry and I craved some company along the way, I was happy to slow down. We rode for several hours, by the beach, passing through one village after the other. Funny thing was that he was very heavily loaded and , compared to his load, mine was negligible. As he put it, if people who saw us ride thought we are traveling together, they’d assume I’ve made him my bitch and am making him carry most of my stuff. Pretty funny situation.
It was around 7pm when Valentin decided to stop for the night.
I still had energy in me and wanted to keep on going, which I did. That night, I ended up riding a total of 156klm. That was the most I have ever ridden in one day in my life. I spent the night at a hotel in Nea Peramos, just a few kilometers before Kavala.
I was exhausted, so my evening activities consisted of dinner, chocolate, lots of water and instant sleep!
The following day was simple and uneventful. I only had another 70 kilometeres to Xanthi, which I had no problem covering.
Before I knew it, I was sitting at a bench on the town’s main square, waiting for Joanna to show up.
This is going to be interesting…