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.