Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Kaynasli - Baltali 45km 19/12/2010

Sleeping in holds little appeal given the endless drone of lorries meters from the tents. Ten kilometers of uphill gets the blood pumping straight away. At the top of the nine hundred meter pass rain threatens and so we don the ponchos. Right pair of wallies we look too!

Thanks to our morning of climbing we're rewarded with and afternoon of easy cruising - with a few monster decents thrown in. My poor diet infects Stu over several days. Today for lunch we eat white bread, mixed with olive oil and spices. Muhahahaha - one more redundant stove!! I'll get him on jam next....

As the fog gathers once more we turn our eyes to shelter. In Baltali an unused construction site catches our eye. Two Germans Shepherds threaten to give us away but even they lose us in the darkness. We set out our gear in a poorly constructed workmans lodge. Sweep up the mouse poo and lay down sheets of insulation on which to sleep. Dust off my stove to brew some cay. Watch a film on the laptop. Oh sweet luxury!

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Dongelli - kaynasli 33 km 18/12/2010

 As the alarm sounds we are both reluctant to move. A brief unzipping of the sleeping bag alerts us to the condition of the day - damn cold. Our concrete cell has lost all its heat (due in part to the 5'x3' opening in the wall).

The days riding does not (as we'd hoped) begin early. We don't even make it as far as the main road before a man off to our left heckles the familiar call of "çay". We stop for our Turkish Red bull (as it has become known) and answer the usual questions. Wave some goodbyes and hit the road.

For lunch we take a break from Stu's Super Food Diet and revert to my Athletes Nutrition Plan - white bread and some Nutella rip-off. We take a seat in the sun to devour the empty calories.

A smiling man on his moped stops for a chat. We are slowly getting better at answering the questions in questionable Turkish. The conversation is somehow steered towards food. He asks if we would like lunch. Our answer is of course "yes".

We meet some of his family. Two very cute grandchildren. A bunch of chickens. And a dog. We look at maps and talk about Turkey. We ogle his Russian motorcycle. Then we receive a feast to end all feasts - twas nearly the end of me too...such was my grotesque gorging. Stuffed peppers, rice, chicken, salad, potatoes, soup. All home cooked. Delicious! We snap some photos together and say our goodbyes. They all wave as we ride on down the way.

No more than five hundred meters up the road we are once more collared. Cay o'clock. We are not kept so long this time. Just a short and sweet interaction with a cheery bus driver.

With the last of the light we begin the twelve kilometre climb upto the town of Bolu. Stopping as soon as we find an appropriate camp spot.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Sapanca - dongelli 62km 17/12/2010

Lessons you should learn as a child...

To the shock of ourselves (and perhaps any readers) we manage to wake with the alarm. The biting wind is howling over from Russia and rattling the precarious tin roof above our heads. Çay and bulgarwheat for breakfast.

By the time we hit the road the headwind has died down - even becoming a slight tail wind. As yesterday, the road is lined eitherside by scabby industry. The day is grey and light rain falls steadily for much of the morning. Piles of ploughed snow line the roads. Finally in snow country. At times the road becomes slushy mud and our bikes get coated in kack.

The rain gets gradually heavier. We resist going for full rain gear. Often on the bike ones body produces enough heat to cause a drying effect. Not today.

By lunchtime its raining with fury. The riding is grim. In our ill equipped state we lose the battle with the cold. Hands and feet lose all feeling. Seeking refuge in a mosque we change into the only dry clothes we have. Pop into a cafe for a royal ripping off - think they saw us coming. We are both grateful for the brief respite. After perhaps an hour of radiator hugging our bodies feel a little more lively. Back to the bikes

We are warned by a passer by about the road ahead - and the apparent two meters of snow that currently cover it. I start to fear for the future of my trip and begin to believe the hype about the harsh winter predicted.

We roll on, feeling a little warmer. Kicking ourselves for not putting on waterproofs at the first drop of rain. We really should know better...

We turn our attention to shelter - in the knowledge that we really need a way to dry our clothes out.

An abandoned garage and restaurant take our fancy. A good selection of rooms from which to choose. One on which contains several wooden chairs - clothes drying fire sorted.

Concered about keen eyes spotting the orange glow emitting from our window we both keep an eye on the carpark out front. But aside from the odd car stopping for a look, no-one takes any notice.

Black painted chairs are smashed up to create fire wood. We pick a room with an open window hoping it will draw the smoke out. Get the fire cranking and lay our soaked clothes around it. In no time the is filled with thick smoke - the kind that makes your throat sting and eyes stream.

Lessons one: when it rain, wear waterproofs.

Lesson two: Burning paint is not good for your health (expect cancer) - though it does dry wet clothes.

I expect most of you don't need to be taught such things. I write them in the hope that I remember them.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Korfez - Sapanca 65 km 16/12/2010

My failure to recognise the alarm resulted in a tardy start to our first day on the road. Experimental bulgar for breakfast and slow packing sees us on the road by 10:30.

Dull riding. Sprawling suburbia flanks both side of the carriageway. Lots of toots and waves keep us entertained. Turkey smashing all others in the Smile Game.

Huge meal for lunch at a hypermarket. 2.5 kgs of yoghurt - not our wisest purchase. We share tucker with the sparrows in the carpark and get back to it.

On the brink of dark we come to a burnt out building. The twisted tin roof seems to levitate above the ground. All support struts are bent and mangled dropping the roof down a few feet. It looks to provide shelter from the weather. We explore like children. Decide to setup and make a fire for some extra warmth.

The owner of the premises spots our flickering light and comes to investigate. Not a happy chappy. Puffed out chest and wide arms - a fine macho display. He asks us to put out the fire. We do. His friend is a little more understanding - seeing that we just want shelter from the rain. They try to tell us something with gestures of guns but we don’t understand. It didn't seem overly threatening. Chesty comes back a while later. We offer him chestnuts cooked on the embers of our (now extinguished) fire. I tell him I'm an electrician when I see him fixing a light - though he makes no use of my ever fading skills, it seems he's now "on side". I based this on the fact that he's now smiling with us as we talk.

He asks we follow him. We walk to his truck. Out of the passenger side he pulls a pump action shotgun. He motion we follow him. Still with no perceptible aggression in his manner. We walk a way down the road. He loads a round, cocks the gun, and fires into the air. The crack makes me jump. We turn off the road and head down a bank, down towards the water. On the way he points out the border of the land that he owns. Neither Stu or I have a great feeling about our current situation. I mull over whether or not it would hurt to be shot with said gun at very close range. Not really a feeling one can imagine. Our guide casually swings the gun backwards over his shoulder. From my vantage behind him every dip in his stride reveals the black hole of the gun barrel. Stu unsheaths his knife as I feel the tickle of fear within. We reach an old building with a dog chained up outside. "Pitbull" he says. Though it looks like no Pitbull I've seen - just some odd crossbreed.

He hands Stu the gun. Small sigh of relief...perhaps we shall not die tonight. We now wonder if the dog is going to get it - rather than us....Neither it seems. We walk back up. Into his cabin where his friend is waiting. Feast on the table. Have dinner together. Tasty fudge stuff called Eva. We talk about religion - now comfortable with the loaded weapon on the couch opposite. We say a chant together in Turkish/Arabic. Apparently we became brothers at the moment. Something akin to Blood Brothers I believe. Not a bad nights sleep. Smelly farts.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Buyukada - Korfez 53km 15/12/2010

Pack up the tent. Tidy our rather scabby campsite. Dust off the legs muscles. Say goodbye to Gizem. One last hit of lentil soup and then catch the ferry.

Leaving Istanbul from James Rathbone on Vimeo.

The temperature has dropped significantly since my entrance to the city. I now stare up at the long learning curve of cycle touring in winter. More layers to balance and tent condensation to dodge. More food to eat! The riding is flat with suits my runtish legs and sagging gut.

We camp early. It's now getting dark at four o'clock. We're done with dinner and çay by six in the evening. The wind makes it too cold to hang around outside and chat. Early night it is then.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Istanbul - The Last Hurrah ('bout time Jimmy)

Back on the Island we meet David and Linda from Sweden. They are hoping to find a camping spot and we point them in the direction of ours. The two become four. We have a cool couple of days doing yoga (they are both instructors) and making music around the fire pit. We also introduce them to the delights of Istanbul's nightlife.

The days disappear to shopping and gear repair. The nights to music and meals at various houses on the island. By the end of week three on the Island I'm about ready to leave. A fair part of me doesn't want to go. But, as you know by now, that is exactly why I should. Now the reality of the winter is here the challenge doesn't seem quite so appealing. From my vantage point on the Island I can see the snow covered mountains to the East – looking like they're going to chew me up and spit me out as tiny ice-cubes.

From a fitness point of view I feel like I'm starting again. The hardness has gone from my legs and my lungs are no longer able to move big quantities of air. I wince at the thought of breaking in my bum! But, the adventure starts here. I now leave Europe behind and head for the Middle East and Central Asia. With visa's for Iran and Uzbekistan – I know I'm at least able to travel that far.

I seemed to have gained a new riding buddy too. Stu (didg man) is heading to Georgia to chase some work (and American girls). For a few weeks we will ride together until Eastern Turkey where we'll split. Bonus! It should serve to soften the blow – knowing that the lonely blues is postponed for a few weeks.

Istanbul has been a blast. I realised a few days ago that I've spent more time here than any other city in the world! While I've spent far too much money here I can't say I regret it. I've met heaps of great and interesting people, and feel absolutely changed (for the better) by some of these interactions.

Back to the road – damn it feels good to type that!

Monday, 13 December 2010

Istanbul - The Border Dash

I sleep right through my alarm – rising only once David rattles my tent an 10 o'clock. Once through with some epic faffing I'm finally on the ferry. Only five hours behind schedule too. The task today is to get a new Turkish tourist visa, without crazy travel expenses. Twenty Lira for a bus to the boarder town seems quite reasonable. Not as cheap as hitching, but more reliable given my tight time frame (my visa runs out today).

I arrive outside Edirne at nine thirty and get to walking. I have twenty kilometres to cover before midnight. The temperature has dropped significantly. My breath condenses on my moustache which gives the sensation of having a really runny nose. I enjoy the walk. It's nice feel in the middle of nowhere again. Away from the chaos of the city. Peace, quiet and time to think. I'd like to say I've always had the “it'll work out” philosophy, but with my last minute boarder dash I feel I'm at least now putting it into practice. Thanks to a storming pace I make the boarder with time to spare.

The guard is somewhat difficult. I suspect he wasn't top group material in maths class – I get the impression he thinks I've overstayed. After some scribbling on a scrap of paper he says “OK, go”. I go.

It feels odd to walk the the area between countries. It's my friend Joe's birthday and I really want to send him a greeting from “no man's land”. But I think snapping photos in such an area may be pushing my luck. Sorry dude!

The Greek border guard is a cheery fellow. By border guard standards anyway. I still get a grilling, but it's done in a nice way. I don't know how, but one quickly learns how to treat boarder guards, and to give them the answers they want to hear. It's like – to have an answer for everything, without appearing to know it all. He looks almost upset when I explain that I'm not going to Greece, and just want a new Turkish visa. All I need is a stamp. There's a funny moment when he explains that (with Greece being in the EU) I don't need a stamp. But he says that if I tell him to stamp my passport he will:

“Sir, do you want me to stamp your passport?”

“I don't know, do you want me to want you to stamp my passport?”

etc. etc.

I sit and wait for fifteen minutes, as apparently I'm not allowed to simply turn around and walk back....He explains why, but his voice is drowned out by the sound of flying bullshit. The fifteen minutes expire and he allows my return to Turkey. I nod to the two gate guards, both sporting flashy assault rifles, and think to myself how dull their job must be – little did I know...

At the Turkish border office I'm once again exchanging with misery guts. Though it's not much of an exchange. He jabbers on at me for some time (in Turkish). I don't catch a word. I just continue to smile with a slightly vacant expression on my chops. Another fellow comes to the rescue and explains that I have to spend the night in Greece. Much as I thought. Fortunately tomorrow is twenty minutes away. Apparently this will not do, I must return at six or seven the following morning. I blubber something about not understanding and ask if I can pitch my tent on a small patch of grass outside the office. I then hear something resembling a sketch from Father Ted (but in Turkish).

“No no, n-no no no, no yes!”

I leave to go and set up my tent. All three behind the counter laugh...and then call me back.

“Fifteen Euro”.

“Lira?” (I don't have enough Euros)


Euro's it is. Exchanged courtesy of duty free. Then the bossy guy spots my guitar.

“Hey, come and play!” Gesturing I go round the back to the office entrance.

So I sit behind the counter with the three border guards. It's all a bit surreal. And slightly uncomfortable. They're nice enough, but they're border guards. I should loath them on sight and without question. I give them my best (newly learned) lapsteel slide blues while I stomp out a beat on the tiled floor. It sounds better than I expected (nothing like a bit of pressure). I even get claps and cheers. I spend the next thirty minutes showing them my website and explaining that my parents are not loaded, I am not rich, and I earned my money myself. I don't think they believed a word. At the end of it all they bid me goodnight with smiles and handshakes.

***Note to self: Play guitar at all future boarder crossings***

I walk on up the road rather chuffed with myself. It's twelve thirty. I'm pretty beat. While still in sight of the border I jump into a field and set up my tent. Without my mattress I can feel the cold ground sucking all the heat out of me. Gonna be a cold night.

Just as I'm drifting off to sleep I hear the footfalls of several people in the field. Voices too (not speaking Turkish). My breath becomes shallow and silent as I listen. They're close, really close. I didn't take much care being concealed from the road. As the amber of a sodium street light bathes my tent, I don't doubt they can see me. I hear muted talking and someone clicks their fingers twice. I brace myself for whatever card is about to be dealt my way (while cursing that I didn't have my knife handy). That said - fight or flight doesn't really apply when your lying butt naked zipped up in a tent. Twigs crack underfoot as they cross from the road to the field. My heart quickens – give me wolves in Bulgaria any day!

To my surprise the sounds get quieter. Though I dare not drop my guard just yet. I wait. I don't know what I wait for. But I wait. The next thing I hear is shouts go up from the direction of the border. The sound of panic. Tooth by tooth I unzip my tent trying desperately not to make a noise. I pop my head out to see truck headlights are scanning the landscape. I make out the “thud” of high voltage floodlights striking up. At the limit of my eyesight I see shadows running near the border office. I make the decision to bail. Socks on, boots on. Shit it's cold. First frost of the year. Whip out the tent pegs. Wrap everything up and codge it into a manageable lump with bungee chords. Get moving.

Back on the road I look for more hidden campsites but scrap the idea in favour of putting some distance between me and the fun and games which are going on behind me. I try to come up with a explanation for what I just witnessed. Not really wanting to find the answer. My suspicions are further confirmed when I reach the next checkpoint. The two guards are crouched either side of the road with rifles ready. One checks my passport. I am permitted to move on.

From then on I twitch at every dog bark and odd noise. I aim for the main bus terminal at Edirne. By three thirty I've walked over thirty kilometres. I give up and pitch my tent once more. Cold night.

***Note to self #2: Don't camp near borders***

***Note to self #3: Sleeping mats are for warmth more than comfort – do not go without***

Istanbul - Escape from Prince's Island

I should warn you. The following entries are relentless rambles regarding the pitfalls of visas and parcel collecting. Written as much for myself, as entertainment for others. If you lunch hour is short, perhaps it's better spent looking at friends of friends on facebook, or bidding on job lots of economy lightbulbs on ebay. Otherwise, read on.


I escape island life and head back to the chaos for a few days. I have chores to do and the hostel is a better local from which to do them.

Once back at the big apple I ditch my gear, grab some quick lunch, and head out to get "task 1" under my belt. That being, collect my parcel of goodies from customs. I take all manner of public transport out of the city to the airport. Atakoy airport is a fair size, and walking around the terminals is a tad impractical, not to mention time wasting. I ask for directions, most folks are very helpful and before long I'm in the right place.

From this right place I'm told I need to head across town to the DHL depot to buy my customs papers for the release of my parcel. Said papers are a steal at 150 Lira. I head back to the cargo terminal. I walk through a maze of corridors which lead to endless tiny grim offices. More asking reveals I need to be in the next building along. The whole area is filled with couriers and delivery drivers. As I pick my way through the cargo loading area dodging pallet trucks I notice I'm the only tourist in sight. A pushy guys tells me to follow him "come come". I smell a fishy whiff in the stale office air - but given lack of English speakers and countless identical offices I don't see that I have another option.

At high speed we weave through the press of sweaty smoke belching bodies. The big basement office is filled with people. The perimeter of the room is lined with desks, on top of which sit hundreds of relic computers from the 80's. My guide pesters several men before one of them agrees to sign my papers. I can't quite fathom the purpose of this stage of the operation - but figure it to be something like job creation/time wasting. Clutching my (now filled in) forms we run up eight flights of stairs to an office. A lone man, with a most spectacular moustache, sits at a desk. He gives me two stamps and scribbles something illegible on my papers (I think it was something like "rip this chump off").

My guide takes me to one final office. The place where I hand over my dosh. Before parting he demands 50 Lira! My first reaction is "what the fuck!!". But I don't convey this. The reality is I should have know better. In such circumstances help doesn't come cheap, let alone free. I cough up and smile, making a mental note to know better next time, all while visualising putting my fist through his pudgy face.

I'm yet to feel any closer to actually getting this package in my hands. The next step is to actually get to the same building as said package. The guys back at the DHL office are just leaving and offer to take me to the depot.

I guess if there is one area where I feel changed by travel its this. I now don't think twice about getting in a car with a bunch of strangers who don't speak my language. Blind trust, guide me well.

I expect this will all be rather dull reading. I hope it serves to portray the boredem and frustration of my day. We arrive at the DHL depot. My new guide takes me to the relevant offices. More paperwork, more surprise fees. Having paid almost everyone I've met today I offer to pay the friendly fellow for his help, but he refuses. I'm handed my parcel.

Metro, tram, hostel, beer, bed. Fin!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Istanbul - Escape to Prince's Island

Back at the hostel - a place that's becoming uncomfortably familiar. Now well into the quiet period before things pick up for Christmas, there are only a few hostellers to keep Stu (didgeridoo carrying cycle tourist) and I company. We meet Duane – a fellow guitarist originally from the UK, currently working in Iraq.

We spend a few nights playing guitar in a bar down the street from the hostel. The place has a good circulation of musicians along with a few guitars floating round. If they sold Real Ale I would think I'd died and gone to heaven. In said bar we meet a group from USA/Canada who sell us stories of making riches teaching English in Georgia. Had I not had my visa sorted for Iran, I'd have been mighty tempted.

I take one more trip to the Uzbekistan embassy and then Stu and I escape to Prince's Island (Buyukada) for some soul and liver cleansing.

While waiting at the docks for our ferry ride Bryan rolls up on his bike. Originally from the States Bryan now lives on the Island with his wife Gizem. The pair are cycle tourists and we immediately hit it off. They offer us the spare room in their house. So much for getting back to nature. We play lots of music and eat great food. Bryan takes a day off work, we take the kayaks out to a small cove and go diving for mussels – which we then cook for dinner. The guys are great company and we have a riot. After three nights we finally move out to find a camping spot. A sheltered rocky amphitheatre dotted with pine trees provide the perfect place. Though we continue to pester our new friends for this and that. Showers, food and company maily.

Gizem gets us to go and busk at a local organic farmers market. Before doing so she requests we take some pictures of us with our instruments so's to publicise the event some. Apparently our interpretation of "organic" was not culturally appropriate....
We have a ball and manage to make 95 Lira, along with 50 lira's worth of fresh veggies. We also get to sample some honey which costs a wopping 300 lira per kilo! Sweet aint the word!

Friday, 10 December 2010

Istanbul - CouchSurfing

So, with some sort of “plan” formed I turns my attention towards methods of time killage. The laptop sucks a few more days from me. I send emails to various wwoofing communities but the rather backwards application process puts me off. Too many forms, along with lots of emails – like I don't have enough of that with the visas.

Istanbul has an excellent CouchSurfing scene and so I post up a request for information/help on volunteering and accommodation.

After speaking with my good chum Tom from back home I realise not everyone is aware of CouchSurfing. So I'll tell abit about what I consider to be the most valuable internet invention....after porn.

Here's a link for those who want additional reading.


It's basically a database from which you request to sleep on peoples couches. You have a profile which describes yourself, your interests etc. You then search through a list of profiles in your city/town of choice, and send a request to your potential hosts. Not everyone can host, but some offer to show you round a city or meet for a coffee/chat - this can be an equally valuable service allowing one to miss all the tourist crap and get straight to the good stuff the city has to offer. I think of it as a cultural exchange as opposed to just a bed for the night. Though some use it solely for this purpose, I find I get more out of it if I put more in. In bigger cities groups hold meetings for hosts and travellers to meet up, find couches or just make friends.

My first host in Istanbul came in the form of Bashar, my post hadn't even been up a full day before his offer came in. And I jumped at it.

A meal with Bashar and his friend Sinan in Kadikoy

His house is in the Beykoz area of the Province, which is about twenty kilometres north along the Bosphuros on the Asian side. Bashar works in the day. I use the time to explore the city and sort things out (including my first trip to the Uzbekistan embassy).


Cycling north on the European side of the Boshporus is a nice ride, through some very wealthy parts of the city. I cringe at the properity as I ride past Bentley, Ferrari and Lamborghini garages. I guess there are several places in the world where owning a Lamborghini is pretty pointless - I'd say Istanbul is one of them. When you consider that a Lambo Gallardo can do 70mph in first gear before hitting the limiter, and at rush hour my bicycle can beat traffic across the city. Plus there are no areas for slow speed posing. But. I'm of course just bitter. Rant over.

Fairly unsuccessful on the visa front. It seems I can't get an application for over the counter, I have to download one and print it out - what ridiculous logic!! And so I leave empty handed.

Back at Kadikoy I hunt down a local looking place for some tasty Borek. Two guys sit at my table and the usual quesitons are given the usual answers. Sadly the conversation often revolve around money.

"you are very rich!"

I explain my diet to them, and that I drink the tap water (looks of disgust). And that I'm yet to see a millionaire travelling by bicycle. Still, to many, I probably am rich.

The owner Ahmen, treats me to my meal. Top man!


In the evenings we cook and listen to music. Each night Bashar suggests I stay another night, and each night I gratefully accept.

My next host takes the form of Collette. Orignally from America she moved here a few years back and teaches English. This deal is a little different to a typical couchsurfing arrangement. Collette and her partner Nur plan to go on holiday for a few days. My services are employed to look after their dog Rufus while they're away. My payment comes as free accommodation in a flat in Fenerbache with access to a great film/book collection.

I have a blast looking after Rufus (an 11 year old Jack Russell). Like all dogs his requirements are fairly simple – food, love and a little bit of exercise. He becomes my daily alarm clock – jumping up and down on me at eight o'clock on the dot each day. My days are a leisurely combination of dog walking, internet and films. Sometimes I would hang out with Colletes flatmate Sabrina for coffee or beer sessions. But most of the time she was busy preparing for her own around the world travels.

 On Wednesday Collette and Nur return home. We spend the evening catching up. I also get to say hello to an old friend of mine – whiskey. Jamesons Special no less. We play boardgames (at which I get creamed) – but the blow to the ego is softened by good whiskey and good company.

I try to make myself useful for the next few days doing abit of handywork around the flat. Some skirting board and new light fittings. It feels good to be able to offer something in return for the roof over my head.

On Sunday I leave Fenerbache. Nur is studying for an exam – and does not need the distraction of a smelly cyclists around the flat. Back to the Big Apple for me.

The alarm clock

Thursday, 2 December 2010


The hostel briefly quietened down, but this was only momentary. Seventy odd members of the Freiburg choir soon filled the entire hostel. It was cool to hear them warming up some mornings after breakfast. Sadly (thanks only to my lack of organisation) I didn't get to see them perform.

Clinton, a fellow electrician, from New Zealand was my beer buddy for the next few nights. Together we scoured some bars and crashed other hostels. Managed to end up dancing with a semi clothed Turkish belly dancer in front of a crowd of hostellers – less said about that the better...though I'd like to think we held our own in the "wiggling" department.

I did well for free alcohol at this time. Thanks to Virpi and Jouni (a totally cool couple from Finland) who donated half a bottle of vodka to the jimmyrathbone cause. Then a bottle of Russian vodka came my way as a guy was leaving the hostel! I didn't even get his name. But thankyou mystery man. As it was, I ended up drinking it with Russians no less.

My daily laptop sessions were only interrupted when Neil (a fellow cycle tourist) would come to visit me and drag me out for lunch. Clinton and I joined Neil and his friend Logan for a day trip out to the Princes Islands. A grand day it was too.

Princes Islands Ride from James Rathbone on Vimeo.

The following day Neil has the excellent idea to ride across the bridge. It sounded like a fun idea so I decide to join him. We manage to waste well over an hour trying to find a way on. We eventually do so, but as we pedal along the slip road I feel a chill as I spot an all-too-familiar green sign. This sign, as with many others, indicates that cycling is forbidden as this is a highway. Something tells me that by the end of this trip I will have forgotten the amounts of times I end up on such roads! We jostle on the hard shoulder with moped couriers. There are no exits before the bridge and so we continue on. At the start of the bridge there is a small cabin an a guard. He gestures that we should stop and we comply, pulling up in front of his cabin. He shakes his head and points back down the highway – suggesting that we ride back the way we came. I look over my shoulder and see a steady stream of motorcycles that would make such a route suicidal. We shrug at him, he shrugs at us. A car pulls up. They talk. All agree that it makes more sense for us to ride across the bridge. Scorchio!

***I later learn that the reason they don't let pedestrians/cyclists on the bridge anymore is because it was a popular place for suicide attempts***

Happy thoughts....

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Istanbul - the birth of a new "plan"

I knew I'd been here two long when Ellen (from GARP and Istanbul Pt1) returned to the Big Apple. She had managed to tour vast amounts of Turkey in the time it took me to return to “the office”. At this time I also met Kaia and Anthony (fellow Brisbanians on a European tour). A few more mellow nights with beer on the roof terrace and in the local bars.

I used these days to do some research about my route. I had always wanted to wait until Iran said “yes” until I look any further ahead. I realise now that more pre-organisation is required, or atleast research. I don't think this is the case the world throughout, but it seems to be so for Central Asia. Having been given the all clear I was then fully able to worry about how I'm going to deal with the nasty winter. Kyrgyzstan has recorded winter temperatures of -35 Celsius. My current sleeping bag is rated at +2 to +20 (comfort range). No calculations were necessary for me to deduce that this equals a “dead Jimmy”. Thus I decided to re-evaluate my plans and kit list.

I expect my fellow hostellers were pissed off with my “I don't know where to go” sulky whinings which were frequent during this period. It continued so for some days as I sat tucked behind my laptop trying to get my head around the visa/climate/boarder minefield that is “The Stans”

I finally got to some sort of a plan...I think. Though things have changed a little – here goes:

I now intend to enter Iran as late as my visa will allow (15th Jan). Making friends with the snowflakes along the way. I will attempt to extend my visa once there so that I can do some sightseeing, rather than just blitz through the whole country.

From there I hope to get a transit visa for Turkmenistan – actually I'd like a longer stay, but they appear to be miserable fuckers and so all I'm likely to get is a 5-7 day transit visa. Even this is only possible if Uzbekistan grant me a tourist visa (which I am applying for here in Istanbul). 5-7 days is probably not enough to cross the country, given the state of the roads, but I'll worry about that when I'm there.

Then from Uzbekistan, depending on boarders/snow, I'll either go to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan and onward to China. Then if China will “play ball” regarding visas, I'll follow the Great Wall East. From there, who knows...Helluva way to go until I'm there, so I'll worry about it then.

India, it seems, shall elude me on this particular adventure. It may have seemed to many as if India was the focus for this trip, perhaps at some point this was the case. Though for quite some time I've had the growing sensation that the destination is, well, irrelevant. And if I'm moving somewhere, anywhere, I'm happy. So (true to the blog title) I really do have No Particular Place To Go.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

17/10/2010 - (who knows when) Istanbul

I tend to summarise much of my “city breaks” rather than give day-to-day accounts. I will do the same this time, but as my stay is for an unknown duration, they could number quite a few...

First thing Monday morning I go to the Iranian embassy with my reference number. I follow the instructions of the clerk and hand over the required documentation – including a hefty $150. I'm asked to return the following day...As I leave the embassy I allow myself a jiffy of excitement – surely it's going to be harder than this!! They must want to interrogate me or something. Twenty four hours pass...

As my watch beeps 10.00am I'm being frisked by the huge bald guy at the consulate entrance. I'm the only one in the “tourist visa” queue and don't have to wait too long to be seen. The clerk hands me my passport, complete with thirty day tourist visa. YEEEEHAAAA!! Iran has been a very important country to me for some time. I have no idea when my fascination started, or where it came from. I knew it would be one of the visa uncertainties, and would have a strong impact on my route if I was refused. But for now I can continue as planned.


In the hostel I meet Stuart a cycle tourist from Cairns, and Pavel from Melbourne - whos travelling before doing an internship in the Middle East. We have a great night on the roof terrace with a group from Germany – one of whom plays guitar, as does Pavel. One of the girls has an excellent voice and is more than happy to wail all night long. Lots of free style blues about Istnabul.

Many more friendly faces come through the hostel including Jacopo, Myriam, Martina & Aileen, Jun and Jeff.

Pavel buys a Saz (Turkish stringed instrument) from a local shop. Stuart (a man after my own heart) is travelling with a didgeridoo, and I'm on guitar. Jun rips on harmonica and shaky love egg. We take our odd arrangement to a few bars in Sultan Ahment and even manage to record some tunes on Pavel's audio recorder.

The days are pretty uneventful. In the evenings we warm up with wine, raki (Turkish Spirit, like the Greek Uzo) and some jamming. And then we head over to Taxim for some live music. In a bar called Araf we watch some very talented musician playing Turkish tunes. Various arrangements came and went. My favourite was a gypsy band consisting of cajon, drums, guitar, bass, accordion, oud, and clarinet. They churned out great beats as we cut some obscene shapes on the dancefloor. Sadly the live music finishes early and we are kicked out somewhere between three and four in the morning. Unsatisfied with this we buy beer and take the party to the gutter. As we sit drinking a couple approach us.

 “Congratulations guys, you've decided to drink in one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in the city!” says the girl.

“Is that wine?” We say.

-cue communal wine slugging.

We had seen a few shifty looking characters, along with a few dollops of odd behaviour, but thought nothing of it – any observers may have thought the same about us. We make it home without drama – or atleast we have no recollection of it

It was a great few days with the guys. Although I was sad to see them go, my wallet and liver were perhaps a little relieved...

Friday, 12 November 2010

17/10/2010 Sultankoy - Istanbul (Distance 100km)

The Boss Man looks a little less formidable in his pyjamas this morning as he hands us two mugs of çay. Richard (as with the rest of the world) wakes earlier than I do and fetches two fresh loaves of bread from the bakery. Honey, Nutella and white bread – the breakfast of athletes! We hand back our empty mugs and say goodbye. In navigational terms little about the day ahead will be testing. We simply have to follow one road all the way into the city. Istanbul has a reputation for being a bitch of a city to enter by bicycle. Have already come in from the “easy” North I expect to feel the full fury of Istanbul traffic.

The first town we come to is Silivri. Traffic density is low, and (with it being a main road) the hills are long and mellow. At around one o'clock we begin to look for somewhere to eat. Riding through Buyukçekmeşe the ocean is close to our right flank. We decide to look for a simple lunch and eat on the beach. While parking the bikes outside a general store the cheery owner Hasan comes to greet us. I look at getting the usual bread and tuna while Richard (who fancies something hot) nips around the corner. Richard returns empty handed. Seeing this Hasan gestures that he can have something cooked for us. He ushers us outside, and provides us crates to sit on under the canopy of the shop. He brings us some chilled water to drink and then goes over to my bike, pulls out all the old empty water bottles and throws them away. He opens his fridge and re-stocks me with a fresh supply. A plate of scrambled eggs and meat is brought to us. Then fresh peppers, olives, cheese and fresh bread. As we stuff ourselves silly Hasan has an idea – Turkish generosity now in full flow! We can stay at his tonight and continue to Istanbul in the morning. Sadly, as I have to be at the Iranian embassy in the morning, I have to decline – gutted! As a conciliation prize he gives us two huge bags of food to take with us. The meal is concluded with grapes and then coffees all round. Out of nowhere he produces two Miller Lager baseball caps and two Efes Lager T-shirts. We put them on and sit and chat a while longer – not that we could move if we wanted to, such is our gluttony. We ask to pay but Hasan firmly refuses anything of the sort. We exchange details and he shows us the website of two other cyclists who passed through recently – though they had the good sense to stay the night. I see that one of the guys is from Shrewsbury (not at all far from my home town). We stuff our bikes with the bags of food, shake hands, and say goodbye. Hasan and his friends wave us off as we pedal on down the road. We ride on, trying to get our heads round his epic kindness - much to learn and take home with me...

The closer we get the more the traffic builds. Before we know it we are on the hard shoulder of a four-lane main road. For a brief moment the increased danger is fun – but this soon passes and it becomes tiring. The difficulty arises when lanes feed onto the road from our right. We are forced to stop just before the roads converge and wait for a gap in the traffic. Our soundtrack for this segment of the day is (the almost continuous) horn blowing. I suspect it's no longer meant with the “Welcome to Turkey” tone – as was the case when I entered form Bulgaria. Coupled with swallowing more than our fair share of fumes, we have an uncomfortable thirty minutes. At the nearest opportunity we search out a smaller coastal road. After Ataturk airport there is even a cycle path! Joy of deep joys!

Afternoon approaches evening, the light softens, and the ride becomes very enjoyable. I surf upon the wave of excitement emanating from Richard. Istanbul is a big milestone for him. We ride through a huge park for many kilometers until I reach familiar territory. Once here we sit at the water front for a while and soak it up. Richard goes in search of accommodation and I return to “old faithful” The Big Apple Hostel.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

16/10/2010 Ucmakdere - Sultankoy (Distance 96km)

I heat my porridge while collapsing the tent. The temperatures now resemble the wet days way back in Germany. I get moving early hoping to squeeze the kilometers out of the day. On the way back to the road the resident dog takes an interest in me. “WOOF WOOF WOOF”. I adopt my usual trick of dismounting – even though this dog doesn't even reach my waist. As I begin to walk “WOOF WOOF WOOF” - I expect fido to be all talk and continue walking. I'm proved wrong when I feel a mouth close around my shin – more playful than threatening, or so it felt. The owner, alerted by the barking, called the dog back. No harm done.

The road cuts inland towards the village of Ucmakdere. Nobody stirs as I cycle through. Only the sporadically clucking chickens disturb the silence. I climb out of the village and soon low cloud dominates my view. The new tarmac becomes a muddy track – just as I'd got used to the excellent roads in Turkey. Eight kilometers later I'm still climbing – the clouds briefly part so I can see how far I've climbed. I celebrate with an apple. The climb continues until Işiklar and from then on I have fast cruising all the way down to Tekirdag.

Apologies for the crude link - I'm working on it...

On the entrance to the town I stop at a truck garage. I think twice about topping my water when I take a look at the toilet – and I'm really not the picky type! I do however take the offered çay and chatter with the mechanics. I really want to work harder on my Turkish simply so that all involved can get a little more from the exchange. Though I do maintain that common language is far from critical – people are always pleased when you demonstrate a willingness to learn. They wave me off the forecourt and I try to pick my way through the town. While doing so I chance upon a fellow cyclist, and fellow Englander no less. Richard is from Cambridge and heading towards the Middle East (though with a more Southerly route than myself). He's also headed for Istanbul and so we decide to ride together.

In the afternoon the sun comes out. For the first time in a week my arms are uncovered and my feet are dry. With the combination of sun, company and good roads – the riding couldn't be easier. Over the course of the day my Pedallers Paranoia diminishes and disappears. We look for a camping spot while there's still plenty of light. After probing a campsite for prices (which turn out to be crazy) we turn into a housing estate and head toward the coastline. It looks to be a poor choice, but as we talk over our options at the road side, a car pulls alongside and the window rolls down. The guy - in beanie, duffel coat and glasses looks at us and shrugs...

Slightly odd pause.

We shrug back.

“Çay?” he says.

I explain we'd like somewhere to camp – he gestures we follow him. Sorted!

And so we take our seats in the çay shack and get introduced to the gang. By standards back home a place like this would come up way below par. But honestly – there is nowhere I'd rather be. The equivalent in England (if such a thing exists) would be a “spit and sawdust” locals pub for local people. The walls are not adorned with trendy art work, and there's not a doily in sight – thank fuck! Such establishments are never devoid of characters. In this place the guys seem to rotate between rounds of çay and new faces always appear. My favourite fellow seems to be the Boss Man. His overcoat rests on his shoulders and his fingers are weighted down with gold, his twinkly grey eyes complete the (ever so slightly) Bond Villain look. After three or four glasses my eyeballs feel ready to grow legs and walk out of my skull. We ask once more about camping. Beanie Man (who's name I forgot) leads us to the beach and tells us we can sleep in his friends summerhouse/shed. Before taking his leave he invites us to return to the cafe.

We cook up the rest of my food and Richard's stove and then set-up our sleeping gear. Despite our tiredness we return to the cafe – the thinking, that it would be rude to stand up our new friends. For the next few hours we drink sweet hot chocolate as local come and go from the cafe. We chat and joke with the guys in broken German/Eng-Turkish. We unfold the map on the table. They, as folks everywhere, have their opinion on the good and bad areas within their country. I listen closely to their advice – but maintain that I'd like to go and find out for myself. Richard and I take our leave – both in need of some serious “Z's”. As is so often the case – they insist we do not pay a cent for our drinks.

In the night mozzies appear, despite the cold. We give up on the summerhouse and throw up our tents in defence from the bloodsuckers. Once in my cocoon sleep comes easily.

15/10/2010 Gelibolu - Ucmakdere (Disatnce 93km)

I manage a slightly more respectable start time today – on the road for 09.00am. I hung my clothes on various parts of my bike and tent to dry overnight, but thanks to the persistent rain their moisture content has only increased. I opt for the rock'n'roll “sandals and socks” look, and prey for a rainless day so my boots might dry. I don't have much food for breakfast and so pull into the first garage I pass. There's not much on offer for a cyclist's breakfast – but a few chocolate bars and a coffee should keep me going till lunch.

At Kavakkoy I break off the main road to follow the coast. As it bends East I'm grateful that the head wind start to hit my left side (much more bearable for riding). After the town the road gets very quiet and I'm surrounded by fields and rolling hills. It's a grim, grey day. Mist hangs in the air and blends with the low cloud obscuring most of the scenery. A pair dogs lying in a field to my right hear me pass. I heave on the pedals, but thanks to the slight gradient, I can only manage 25kph. The eighty meters that separated us rapidly disappears and they clear the twelve foot drainage ditch with impressive ease. I give up on out-running them and hop off the bike. So far this tactic has not let me down. I make no eye contact and just push my rig up the road. Fortunately Fido & Lassie are all bark and no bite. After following me up the road for a while they loose interest. I hate admitting defeat – but it does beat getting holes in my leg.

Rounding a curve I see a big lake on my left. From the bank smoke rises from a bonfire. I see what look like wigwams dotting the coastline, and then a couple of huge trucks (maybe amphibious vehicles). Moments later I hear a shout from the trees to my left. I search for the source but see nothing. “Hello hello, how are you?” (“okay where are ya”) I think.

After some seconds I make out eight guys in full cammo sitting in a dug-out. A few more shouts go up and I see perhaps ten clusters of men in similar dug-out's in the trees lining the road side. Many of them smile and wave. I manage a quick exchange with one guy. He guestures that they are Army...that explains it then! I really want to whip out my camera but suspect that could go horribly wrong. I move on – quite chuffed with myself that I managed to interrupt some sort of training exercise...atleast I hope that's all it was.

For several hours I steadily gain altitude. After the village of Yenikoy I begin to descend. I know the the next town of Şarkoy is on the coast, from my current position it looks as though I'll be heading downhill all the way. My mornings riding has been somewhat sedate – it's nice pick up the pace. Thanks to assistance from gravity the eight kilometers disappears very quickly.

I stop briefly in Şarkoy for food. An English speaking women from Istanbul stops for a chat – apparently this area doesn't see many tourists – even less on bicycles. There's not much to see and so I continue on down the coast. The sky is grey but thankfully no rain so far. Cycling right next to the sea is great. There are many tempting campspots but with atleast four hours of remaining light I can't bring myself to stop. At a garage in Mürefte I stop for water. A guy approaches to ask my intentions for the day. He lives about ten kilometers up the road in a village called Hoşköy. He tells me he is a wine maker and invites me to visit him for a drink.

There nothing like the promise of some company (not to mention some good wine) to raise my enthusiasm. I find his place with little difficulty – as he said “ right on the main street by the harbour”. The rain and wind have picked up so I'm glad of the temporary shelter. I get a tour of the factory and then sample a few from the selection, and afterwards a tour of the vineyards. I'm disappointed to hear, had I been here a month earlier I could have volunteered for board and food.

I'm beginning to learn that such interactions often present an opportunity for a place to sleep. This time is no exception. I ask the question, a phone-call is made, and I have free admittance to a nice little campsite eight kilometers up the road. I empty my glass and say goodbye. After such a pleasant few hours it's tough to get back on the bike. Once back on the exposed coastline my (now relaxed and cooled) body feels the full bite of the icey wind. The road is cut dramatically into the cliff face – apparently with little regard to the potential for falling rocks (it appears as long as a sign warns of the danger, nothing more need be done).

I arrive at the tiny campsite (which is closed to all but me) and I'm handed a warm coffee. It's a great spot – I think with a running jump I could make it form the camping area and land in the Marmara Sea. I can see this place being popular in high season. The owner (who I figure is in his sixties) opens the kitchen and sits with me as I prepare and eat my dinner. He surveys his crossword through Bottle-Bottom spectacles while I noisily slurp my spaghetti. I've found that due to spending so much time alone, my eating (amongst other things) loses some "finesse". By the time I return home I may well be reduced to communicating through animalistic grunts and eating with my fingers - normal constuction site life then!  I pitch my tent in the dark and read under the porch light for an hour before hitting the sack.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

14/10/2010 Intepe - Gelibolu (Distance 86km)

I'm definitely getting worse at these early starts. And talk about some late Mihailo influence - I now roll over and snooze when I hear the pittar patter of rain on my tent...what a softie I have become!

By 10:00am my oat and caffeine levels are sufficiently boosted and I'm feeling most operational. As I wheel my bike to the road I detect a slight tailwind. So to those of you who wished me a "good wind" - thankyou, I just got it! As to be expected (with said wind assistance) the ride to Çanakkale is easy and I arrive thirty minutes ahead of my ETA.

As I cycle toward the ferry port I notice a number of cycle paths! I think the first I've seen in Turkey. The town of Çanakkale has quite a modern feel - atleast when compared the settlements I've been passing to and from Babakale. Some quite trendy looking shop fronts and many cafés. I suspect tourism is rife here but it doesn't have the same feel as Sultan Ahmet (the hostel/hotel district of Istanbul, that gets quite tiresome after anything more than a few days thanks to the tourist density).

I pay my 2tl and take my place on the ferry. For the third time on the trip I use my webbing strap to lash the bike down securely. That's three uses in as many months - enough usage to justify the carrying the weight...let me consider it for another 5000km. I can't help but think that when I reach more exotic climbs it will become a sling from which to suspend my bike as I traverse a crevasse on a zip-line made of vines...yes...anyway.

Forgive my brief departure from reality. The real me is currently sitting under a meagre shelter on the top deck of a lumbering car ferry in the pissing rain.

Half an hour later, back terra firma, I roll through the town of Eceabat. I lean the bike against a bench and call into a shop for some bread and a jar of honey(which I have been craving for some days). By some bizarre means the tailwind has become a slight headwind - though I maintain the same direction as this morning. The flat road tucks tight to the coastline and so makes for interesting cycling. I see many potential scenic camping spots but having had several lazy days I need to press on atleast a little while longer. A road sign informs me I'm 300km from Istanbul - assuming no problems occur that's three days ride.

My only company for the latter half of the day is the raindrops - sometimes lots, sometimes only few, but always some. Not a single car passes me for several hours. At five o'clock I pull into a café to warm up with some çay (pronounced chi). I sit for almost an hour. My eyes flitting between the rain, my emails(thanks to free wifi) and the half dressed women that seem to feature in every Turkish music video(courtesy of a TV meters from my table). All the staff are very friendly and insist I sit inside rather than head out to the rain. At 0.5tl for one çay I could well do just that - but it wouldn't serve to get me any closer to Istanbul. Back on the wet saddle my body takes some warming up. I see the slightly unnerving sight of a kid(perhaps 14 or so) with a gun - that looks mighty substantial for an air rifle, though I suspect that's all it was. He doesn't return my cheery greeting and for the next 200 meters a tuck my head a little lower down between my shoulders – half expecting to feel the sharp sting of an air propelled pellet.

At 6:30 I start looking for camp spots. I'm not feeling very picky. Actually I'm feeling cold and wet. I wheel the bike down a small embankment and wait for the cover of dark.

Note: I've been attempting to shoot video - hence a lack of photos.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

13/10/2010 Kosedere - Intepe (Distance 59km)

6:30am - it's still dark. At 8:00am I remove myself from my pit to another grey day. I utilise my now functioning stove to make coffee and porridge. Somehow several hours pass and I'm still faffing around my camp. Dry out the mattress, wash up my pots, air the sleeping bag etc. At 10:00 I finally make it to the road.

Along the way I see some familiar sights. These bring some comfort - knowing that my course is correct. The usual friendly faces, toots and waves accompany my ride. I get to the town of Ezine. The faces aren't all so friendly. Nothing excessively unfriendly, but the blank stares make me feel very much the outsider - looking through my ever moving window at a tough, old fashioned, industrious town.

From Ezine I pick up the main road. It feels good to know I'm heading straight for Çanakkale - my intended stop for the night. The few big hills that I encounter are mellow enough. Up a particularly long climb it begins to rain. For no apparent reason my face cracks into a smile. I'm still very curious to find out what it is that I enjoy about this particular situation. I wonder what people think as they see my grinning mug pedalling up the hill in the downpour. “What could he possibly have to smile about!?”...And I sort of see their point – hence my curiosity...

I opt for no soundtrack today. There being two main reasons for this: the first - I'm hoping to wean myself off music a little, or at least not lean so heavily on it for purposes of motivation. And the second - its nice to get as much warning as possible from the angry dogs that are abundant in this area. Every meter proving vital in my sprint for survival. Okay - perhaps that's a little dramatic, but boy do those dogs look angry!

Twenty kilometers from Çhanakkale mother nature cranks up the anti and the rain really starts to come down. I take temporary refuge under the canopy of a disused fuel station. I remember passing it in the other direction thinking "that would make a cool place to sleep". I explore further and find the automatic doors can easily be pried open be hand. I wait for a gap in the traffic so no-one will see me enter and then roll my bike inside. I take a look around. In the cupboards and the desk drawers to see if I can find anything of use. Feeling a bit like a character in "The Road" or "Twenty-eight Days Later". I unroll my camping mat and tuck into my book. As I sit and read, my eyes constantly flick to the door with a porthole window leading to storage rooms at the back – fully expecting one of “The Infected” to slam against the glass before coming to eat me. This place is hardly the Marie Celeste but there's something eerie places once occupied by human life – with evidence they exited with little care for what was left behind. On the counter is the remnants of someone’s lunch, along with a news paper. I turn up various other artefacts when I have a poke around. I couldn't help but satisfy my childish curiosity and go “exploring”.

I feels nice not to be concerning myself with big distances per day. In the last of the light I cook some spaghetti and get an early night. Noting that the nights are definitely drawing in.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

12/10/2010 Kosedere (rest day)

The chirp of my wristwatch drags me from a deep sleep at 6:00am. Gathering my senses I hear the sound of rain on the tent. I need little excuse to sleep in. What a lazy git I have become!
Over the next few hours I wake periodically to the sound of persistent rain. I am pulled back into a slobbering dreamworld. Though I haven't been pedalling this past week, I don’t feel entirely rested. My days being spent slugging away with a pickaxe, and evenings slugging away at the organic wine on offer.

After some thirteen plus hours of sleep I unzip my door to the world, knock the sand off my boots, and step out to face the day. By the time I get myself ready for breakfast its practically lunch time. I decide upon the inevitable - that today will be a rest day. The quiet stretch of beach I occupy seems the perfect spot.

I fiddle for some time with my stove until I get it roaring (for the first time in weeks). Hot porridge with jam. Made with oats I brought way back in Austria! My friend Ellen whom I met first in Istanbul and then in Garp gave me Life of Pi, much of the afternoon is spent between the pages. I talk briefly with a shepherd who’s heard of sheep pass close by my tent. I share my biscuits with him, unable to understand most of the chatter.
I wave at passing fishermen – almost indiscernible against the grey sky and sea. I push the boat out with a whole bag of peanuts for dinner. More reading and I enjoy another early night – rock on!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Monday, 25 October 2010

11/10/2010 Babakale - Kosedere (Distance 30km)

My iphone dies at some point during the night and so I miss my expected wakeup call. Fortunately I rouse just before 8:00am - giving me sufficient time to pack and eat. Once I'm through with breakfast I haul my bags up the hill to the main house. Sitting on the patio I soak up the vista before me. It's as though everytime I cast my eyes over the scene I see something new. Various features of the landscape are respectively cloaked and highlighted by the fluctuating light. On this particular morn the sun has pushed its way through the grey fluff to touch a circle of ocean. Another highlighted sliver appears at the base of the Greek island of Lesbos.

As the routine goes - George arrives on the quad-bike and we gather our gear for the days work. We walk the narrow path to the cluster of olive trees. With stick and rake we harvest a respectable quantity of fruit. Once the work is complete we make our way to the western most village in Turkey. I video my final ride - it being a most pleasurable segment of each day. If the commute I was making back in England had been like this, perhaps I would never have left.

As I pack my bike in the olive processing room George calls in to tell us its çhy time. For the last time I take my seat on the plastic garden furniture and sip the sweet tea. Looking around I see the walls I helped to work, along with the faces of my new Turkish, Australian and American friends. My investment of time, not to mention a few blisters, has been worth every drop of sweat. But as always the road calls. And I really must get on and sort this visa out.

Murat (Garp founder and owner) has returned today. Sahli suggests I stay for lunch and meet Murat. Well, who will eat Ramazan's delicious leftovers if not me!? I take a walk around the pretty little village and along the castle walls. At lunchtime I return for fish stew and fresh bread - scrumptious!! Once full I am beckoned up to the tea room over looking the harbour. Here I meet Murat and his girlfriend Simone who is from Holland. I'm glad I got to meet them but wish we could have spent more time talking. Sahli get a call and the group rush to catch a boat for an evening fishing. I say my goodbyes. Alone again.

I think because I was expecting the riding to be really tough, it turned out to be OK. Though I noticed my head throbbing as I crested the bigger hills along the coast - that’s a new, and slightly unpleasant sensation. I'm immediately struck by the silence, and actually I don’t mind it. It allows me the time to think and reflect on the week. Which has, even in its chilled out way, been quite full on. I'm excited to be back on the bike. In the three weeks that have passed sin e I arrived in Istanbul the weather has changed massively. It now feels very much like autumn. A very pleasant autumn, but autumn none the less. The temperature drop will no doubt make the riding easier. But the reduced daylight hours will mean I need to make efficient use of my time – hardly my strong point.

I use my phone map to pick the coastal road. I quite fancy a night on the beach listening to the sea. Soon enough a suitable path arises and I roll down towards the sound of the waves. Unsuccessful fire making attempt. Simple tea and an early night. Rain.