We cycled along the eastern shore of Lake Kerkini, then turned east, following the river Strimonas to Bulgaria (where it is called Struma).
The last 10km before the border to Bulgaria where a bit of a challenge at times. We rode on dirt tracks that were located between the new motorway and the river. Those tracks had been flooded recently and where still quite muddy in some places.
The tracks ended and we turned east again, into the mountains, to avoid the motorway, but soon were stopped by two members of the Greek army. They ‘commanded’ us in an very arrogant and unfriendly way to turn around as there was some kind of army outpost on that hill. (I believe we were still on a public road and they had no reason nor right to force us…) So we ended up cycling on the motorway for the last couple of kilometers.
Right after the Bulgarian border we left the main road and cycled north-eastish on quiet backroads. Eventually we reached Melnik, where we are staying in a ‘tavern’.
In the morning I fixed yesterday’s broken spoke.
From our camp site we cycled further north-eastish, and crossed the hills near the mountain Mavrovouni on dirt roads. We spotted lots of turtles that crossed our paths or jogged through the dry leaves left and right.
The ‘roads’ were bad sometimes but overall quite fun to ride on. The view from the western side of the hills onto Lake Kerkini was amazing.
There is quite some logging going on on these hills. We passed by piles and piles of cut wood. Horses, in bad shape, were grazing nearby. Probably they are being used to transport the wood from the hills down to the dirt tracks from where it is then carried away by truck, presumably. We didn’t see any human beings there.
Once down at the lake we cycled along its western shore to the town of Lithotopos at its southern end, where we had dinner, then continued after nightfall along the eastern shore for a few kilometers in search for a suitable camping spot for the night.
The weather was again sunny and pleasant with temperatures somewhere in the low to mid twenties.
Yesterday I managed to break my phone by updating some software… Now it wouldn’t even start up anymore. I had to find an Internet cafe and reflash it. All this took quite a while and we finally left Thessaloniki to the north at 12.30pm.
Thessaloniki has lots of ‘modern’ concrete appartment and office buildings, but it also has some nice spots where oldish buildings dominate. And of course there are the occasional ancient ruins.
We took minor roads as much as possible, and sometimes even rode on dirt tracks just for the fun of it. We visited the site of some ‘Early Christian Byzantine Settlement’. It was closed, though, and even after climbing over the fence there wasn’t too much to see.
Eventually we stopped near a river, crossed it through a ford, and pitched tents on some former meadow.
The second night without sleep. After my arrival at half past 10pm last night we packed our luggage and re-packed the bikes into cardboard boxes. We were finished at 3.30 or 4am. I had a cat-nap and we left at 5am for the airport.
The flight went smoothly and everything arrived undamaged. However, we noticed that on András’s bike a little piece of the rear hub had actually broken off, though that had happened in Budapest or before already. We decided it was not mission-critical.
Anyway, we cycled into Thessaloniki on side roads and unpaved tracks, and decided to stay there for the night.
We almost instantly fell asleep after sitting down on the beds…