Across Continents

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Clean socks and ‘chai’

They were most insistent. I should put on the clean, dry socks they’d found for me. I hadn’t the heart to explain that once I put my boots back on, they’d soon be as sodden as my own, presently steaming next to the cafe’s stove. I’d stopped outside a little seaside establishment near the town of Karasu, quickly finding myself being beckoned inside, a chair drawn up for me next to the fire. Hot tea (cay, pronounced ’chai’) was provided, followed a short while later by a large toasted sandwich.

I’d left Kandira early, aiming to reach the coast by lunchtime, conscious of some lengthy climbs and a good deal of ground to be covered to my next stop. During a mid-morning break for tea an elderly chap kept saying ’wasser’ (German for ’water’), but exactly why was unclear. A little later, as I descended towards the flat coastal strip, the meaning became quickly apparent. A river had burst it’s banks, submerging the road under a couple of feet of water.

Any detour, even if I could find one on my dubious map, would add hours to an already lengthy day. No choice but to wade knee deep through several hundred metres of icy water, carrying my kit. Emerging from the flood water, a few bemused onlookers approached as I sat wringing my socks out. They suggested a nearby guest house where I could dry off properly. I thanked them, but explained I had to push on. A few kilometres later, my legs now feeling numb with cold, I’d spotted the seaside cafe and decided a short break was now in order.

Returning to the road in clean socks, stoked with tea and toasted sandwich, I continued east along the coastal strip. Beyond Karasu it seemed very grey, featureless but for the wide road and sporadic clusters of workshops and small businesses. But, as the rain returned, it did afford a relative quick passage towards the town of Akcakoca. It looked big enough on the map to offer shelter, even out of season.

The final ten kilometres towards Akcakoca drew me away from the coast, climbing once again. It was beginning to get dark. I was flagging. Then another small cafe. Like so many I’d passed, it seemed to be more a place for local men to meet than a viable business. Beckoned inside once more, I was fed warm, sugary tea whilst I sought to explain what I was doing. Spirits lifted, on to Akcakoca. Couple of more short climbs I was assured, then downhill to the coast.

I found the lights of Akcakoca alluring on such a bleak night, quickly finding a small hotel. For about thirteen pounds I wasn’t going to quibble, and they could quickly fix me a hot meal. Very comfortable. I’d found in Turkey, and to some extent in Serbia and Bulgaria, that the quality of accommodation often bore little resemble to the price. One of the nicest stops had cost me about £7.50, about the same price as a night’s camping in France.

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