A Midpoint 738km and 8,672m of climbing from Kotor to Thessaloniki in six and a half days

And a warm welcome from Thessaloniki, named contemporaneously for the sister of Alexander the Great of Macedon, an etymology that hints at the long human history for culture and conflict at this crossroads of the world.

But (in the words of The Tim Traveller) we’re not here to discuss any of that.

Or maybe we are, but not until after showing you a map that does absolutely nothing to hint at how hard and beautiful the last week has been: cycling 738km across (what felt like) a dozen mountain ranges through Montenegro, Albania, Macedonia and Greece.

738km and 8,672m of climbing from Kotor to Thessaloniki in six and a half days

There will be some of you who will now be expecting a 6,000 word story about cycling hundreds of miles clean across the Balkan Peninsula, from the Adriatic to the Ionian.

Sadly, I shall have to disappoint you, for tomorrow at dawn I don once more my padded shorts and prescription sunnies and take to the saddle.

For tomorrow we ride to Athens.

This is but a snatched midpoint.

For some ridiculous reason, after four weeks of crewing Thighs of Steel from Glasgow to Milan, I decided to cycle the whole of the last two weeks: a lucky thirteen days riding from Dubrovnik to Athens, via Thessaloniki.

No wonder the ride began with some pretty heavy anxiety.

The night before we left Dubrovnik I found myself eyes wide open until past three in the morning. Breakfast was at five.

I couldn’t. I shouldn’t. It wouldn’t have been safe so sleep deprived on those hectic roads out of the city.

So I cancelled my alarm and caught a few hours’ kip.

I spent the morning in the support van, back as an auxiliary core team member, helping fetch and carry crates as we packed up the weekend.

Fast driving, slow borders, and finally I joined the ride further down the road in Kotor.

I spent the rest of the day sweeping and scratching up the infamous Kotor Serpentine — twenty-five or more switchbacks offering views grander and ever-grander, south, north, south, north, for a thousand metres of elevation and a place in the heavens with a sunset never beat.

The point of this whole ride is to raise funds for refugee solidarity projects across Europe.

You can donate with love and gratitude here.

You’d be joining 2,726 other supporters who, collectively, have donated £86,257 so far this ride.

Thank you.

And that’s where I’ll leave this update. I’m sorry I couldn’t be more profound.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

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