After a slow start along the last stretch of Greece (and the North East corner really does just keep stretching), we arrived, already tired from fighting strong crosswinds, at the Turkish border. Despite improved relationships over recent years and Turkey's proposed joining of the EU, the Greek army presence was distinctly more noticeable the closer we came to the crossing point at Kipi. However, the bemused friendliness of the border guards on both sides saw us through the checkpoint with little hassle once we'd coughed up for a visa. Just as well, though, that we're not in a car. Although the motorway leading to the border was virtually deserted, there was still a large queue of cars and lorries waiting to be processed and not going anywhere fast.
Turkey welcomed us (hah!) with our worst cycling conditions so far (veterans of the Moorfoots in September may have some inkling of what's coming). The crosswinds became headwinds, the clouds that had been looming burst open and the temperature, already low, plummeted. Although we had less than 30km to go from the Turkish side of the river to the nearest town of any size, it was a long, miserable and, later, pitch-dark slog.
Barely able to keep the bikes on the road, change gear due to frozen thumbs, or feel the useless lumps of meat below our ankles, we pressed on through freezing, sleety rain. Low gears were required all the way, even to pedal down steep hills giving us our slowest day of the whole trip (speed too shameful to note here). As darkness fell, it became harder to tell where the line was between the hard shoulder along which we ploughed and the be-lorried dual-carriageway alongside. With visibility lowered even further by the heavy rain, we felt uncomfortably vulnerable even with all our lights and reflective jackets. Not far out from Kesan, a kindly lorry driver stopped to offer us a lift to Istanbul - a cheat too far we felt!
And so we glaciated into Kesan where the road surface deteriorated further into a tapioca of gravel and mud (this in a town of over 40,000). With crumbling 60's concrete buildings whose architects were clearly adherents of the brutalist movement, the sense of entering a town where life was made up of one vile task after another was complete. And then, as we passed the glowing and ringing blacksmith's forge just off the main town square, two men passed by in their nag-drawn cart - are we in Deadwood?
Yasas Hellas! Merhaba Turkiye!
Day 79.3km (Total 3417.6km)