Istanbul

We are here. After 4333 km 9 countries 3 ferry crossings 1 puncture broken forks 6 set of brake blocks and lots of bite marks we came into Istanbul cold wet and tired.

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Me under a tree

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Thank you

Chorley to Istanbul, looks like we’re going to make it, tomorrow we will ride the remaining 60km. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has been in touch through whatever means, text, Facebook, email, this site, and particularly to Andrews family who have shown great interest in our journey and have been a constant source of encouragement and support, without which I doubt whether I would have continued writing blogs. It will be good to see you all when we get home, thank you, She

Baklava portion for one, if that one is Drew!

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Turkish delight!

I looked down at my speedo this morning 2.73km and I’d already been blown off the road 3 times by the cross wind, it’s going to be a tough day I thought. We’ve had a few hard cycling days since arriving in Turkey due to the weather, the wind has really effected our riding speed, 9kph on the flat, not to mention our morale, but the warmth and generosity of the people has more than made up for it. After a trouble free border crossing from Bulgaria to Turkey, we arrived at our first destination Kirkareli in a sorry state after 115km in a block headwind, we arrived after dark soaked to the skin, we also missed our rendezvous with our warmshower host. We were meant to meet outside the ‘big mosque’ in the centre, when nobody came I took shelter inside the mosque to phone our host, I felt very uncomfortable in a mosque dressed in skimpy cycling shorts and thought I’ll be lucky to get out alive if I get caught! Selcuk our host returned my call but had no idea where we were and told me to hand the phone to a Turkish person, I thrust my phone at the first person I saw, an elderly gentleman just about to cross the road, a short conversation later he handed me back the phone but insisted on staying with us until our host arrived, 20 mins later our host arrived and the elderly gentleman went on his way, now also soaked to the skin! It was a truly miserable night, torrential rain, thunder and lightning all around, as our bikes and bags were getting loaded up staff from the nearby petrol station must have seen me shivering and brought me a hot cup of coffee. We were soon in the warmth of Selcuk and Eda’s home and served with a delicious home cooked meal and the hardship of the day was soon forgotten. The radam acts of kindness continued the following day, shopkeepers refusing to take any money when I went to buy an apple, tea being offered to us at the bakery, a man giving us his figs when we stopped to check directions, biscuits being handed to me as I checked us into accommodation last night, we get toots of encouragement, big smiles and frantic handwaving by passing vehicles, its been amazing and with Istanbul only 60km a wonderful way to end our journey in a country of kindness, even the dogs are ok!

There’s countless restaurants to choose from but they all sell the same thing, kebabs or meat of some kind manipulated into a variety of shapes, it makes ordering very easy, we went to quite an upmarket looking restaurant tonight, our choice was lentil or chicken soup and for main it was meat balls, so no time wasted deliberating over the menu. Drew is partial to the syrupy turkish dessert baklava and has just bought a kilo of it, it will all have to be eaten tonight, he won’t want to carry the extra weight tomorrow!

The roads in Turkey have been ok so far but I imagine they will get much busier the closer we get to Istanbul. The horrors of Romanian roads already seem a distant memory, we were both very relieved to cross over into Bulgaria where if you’re prepared to do the extra kilometers you can keep safe on the secondary roads which are also in a fair condition. That first day was an absolute joy, it was back to letting the legs do the work whilst we could just sit back and enjoy the ride without having to concentrate on traffic, we hadn’t realized how tense we’d become until the danger was no longer there, we were both on a high and didn’t even mind doing the extra kilometers to our first stop Veliko Tarnovo, that was until the heavens opened and the lightning show began. For the last hour we were cycling through what had become a stream, we arrived at Hostel Mostel soaked to the skin and were shown into our room, a dorm with 10 other occupied beds, I couldn’t help but make a little puddle in the room (rain) and when one of the other guests came in and started looking up at the ceiling and said he was looking for the leak, where did all this water come from? I promptly told him that i was the bl**dy leak, i wasn’t in the mood for a smart arse, he went then but not before he got his socks soaked in my puddle! We had a couple of nights in the Mostel which was full of backpackers who all irritated Drew, who can’t understand why anyone would want to travel around the country on public transport and hated the way they all enthused over their latest travel adventures. Even another cyclist managed to wind him up, an American who liked to give advise, always stay in the saddle, if you sweat you’re dead! Fortunately there was a german cycling touring couple who Drew did get along with. We rode on some beautiful roads in Bulgaria which took us through some mountainous forested areas which made for a good wild camp spot, there was evidence of wildlife so I told Drew it was bear pooh, he has to have something to worry about to feel normal! The climbing continued over a mountain range and into Turkey, it was good to be out of the saddle again after so much flat and uninspiring landscapes.

After a stressful day meeting Ludmila was just the tonic we needed

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Motorway madness!

The roads to our next destination Pitesti were the same but the villages had become much more lively and humming with the day to day hustle and bustle of trade and social exchanges, there was also much more of a Romany feel with lots of horse drawn carts loaded with hay, people and produce, the most prominent by far being cabbages by there thousand! I enjoyed the change of scene but Andrew felt uneasy and said we should stop at the first hotel we came to, so we did.  I walked up to the 3 star marble fronted glossy entrance thinking the budget is buggered this is way out of our league, I needn’t of worried, the receptionist took one look at me and showed me to the alternative 0 star accommodation tucked away around the back. At a third of the price it was great for us and our bikes, we had a night tucked up in a clean double bed and our bikes were tucked up in the wardrobe, we all slept soundly. Riding out of Pitesti we headed off to Bucharest, the capital of Romania, Andrew is normally spot on with his map reading and he seems to have a built in GPS system but on this occasion it definately malfunctioned and it wasn’t long before I heard a new alarm call “sh*t we’re on the motorway” swiftly followed by “we’ve got no choice” and the Andy Guy bullet train was off with me clinging on behind, we made good time on that hardshoulder! Obviously we got off at the first opportunity a few kilometers later and took one of the A roads.  At last a quiet road, a bit bumpy but hardly any traffic, lovely, it wasn’t long however before the dogs made their prescence known and we were running the gauntlet.  They’d come racing out and we’d sprint away as fast as we could and then try and recover before the next one was on us, I was exhausted, after the 120km ride the previous day and the Transylvania climb the day before I had nothing left in my legs, I was sprinting on pure adrenaline, then thinking have we got an unlimited supply of adrenaline,  am I going to run out before the dogs?! It was like being in a cruel game show, the winner rides away unharmed but if caught it could be messy, very messy.  After one particularly vicious looking mogrel came out trailing his broken chain behind him I’d had enough and thought I’ve just got to get off this road, my nerves were shot and I was exhausted, and just then the tarmac abruptly ended. A rough, gravel potholed dusty track lay before us and we both thought we won’t be able to out race the dogs on this.  I’ve spoken a lot about the roads and its dangers in Romania and have often thought and I suspect you too have thought, that we are being irresponsible, stupid even suicidal but what appears to be a good looking road on the map is completely unreliable and the tarmac inevitably turns into a dirt track, which is ridable but we would need many more weeks to complete our journey. Fortunately it was only 11 km to the next main road and for once I was relieved to be on it, we made good time and arrived in Bucharest by late afternoon. We couldn’t have had a warmer welcome by our warmshower host Ludmila who lives right in the centre of Bucharest on the 14th floor of an apartment block.  The days stress just drained away as we chatted late into the night after enjoying a cyclist size supper!