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.

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