Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Unplanned and Unprepared 2008

If you wish to follow kris on his solo bicycle crossing of the states please visit www.sf2florida.blogspot.com

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Day 74: Gravesend, UK!!!

After breakfast Kris returned to bed to nurse his hangover while Bas and I explored the Grand Bazaar for a couple of hours. The whole bazaar was under cover and made up from thousands of little alley ways with every one being made up of the same stalls. We wandered around getting more and more lost and hassled by every store owner to looky looky! We left with a couple of souvenirs which were unfortunately breakable perhaps not the most sensible idea seeing as we had to somehow get 2 bikes, 8 paniers and 2 bar bags to the airport. We returned to the hotel to find that Kris had made it out of bed and was attempting to pack the bike boxes with as much of our gear as possible. We managed to squeeze the majority inside leaving just hand luggage for the flight that should save time and effort later on. We showered and met our private taxi at 1pm which meant finally saying our goodbyes to Bas. Well it was more of a see you later as we are sure to visit him in Athens or New York in the future. On arrival at the airport we were made to put all luggage including the bike boxes on a conveyor belt and through an xray machine. Thankfully no problems so we continued to tape the boxes up until the tape ran out! We had lunch and waited to check in. Again we had no problems at check in as we were under the weight allowance however, we were asked to leave the boxes at the desks which was quite scary abandoning all our possessions. We cleared passport control and waited in the lounge to board the plane. We were both gasping for water and after counting out the remaining pennies we had 1 euro and 1 ytl which after pleading with a man in cafe we had a small cold beverage. The flight was 4hrs but was filled with movies, drinks, free daily mail newspaper and dinner which tasted surprisingly good. We landed at Heathrow Terminal 5 and had serious doubts over the collection of the boxes but were very excited to see them there in one piece and ahead of everyone elses luggage! We manouvered the oversized trolley through customs with nothing to declare and were met by my mum and aunty Jill along with several helium balloons, hugs and smiles. After a short struggle we managed to squeeze the bikes in the cars and drove home sharing hundreds of stories. We followed yellow ribbons tied to lamposts all the way to our front door where we unloaded and enjoyed a nice cuppa english tea! Glad to be home.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Day 73: Istanbul, Turkey

We again made full use of the buffet breakfast in the hope that it would see us through til dinner. After updating the blog we walked up to the blue mosque this time to venture inside. We covered up in sarongs and removed our shoes. The atmosphere inside was really quite special so we sat and absorbed it for some time. We then ventured to the Basili Cistern which is a massive underground chamber with hundreds of columns and was used to supply the city with water. It was amazing down there so again we took our time especially as it was cool! We then went to the Topkapi Palace which is where the Sultan used to live with his Harem! This was especially interesting and very grand. Exploring this with Bas is like having your own personal tour guide as he is so knowledgable. We booked a private airport transfer for tomorrow which is necessary due to the large amount of luggage we have! We watched Hamilton win and the golf, attempted to pack but gave up then took a taxi to the Galata Bridge again for sunset via a kebab stand. We chilled and chatted til late in the bean bag chairs with a few beers then strolled back to the hotel for more on our personal roof top terrace. We sat and reflected on the various highlights of the trip and discussed future plans...

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Day 72: Istanbul, Turkey

We made it to breakfast at 8.30 and took full advantage of the lovely buffet. We walked to the other side of town in search of a bike shop and stumbled across 10 all on the same corner! We cunningly managed to get 2 boxes for free together with some tape after being quoted ludicrous prices for boxes they would otherwise have simply thrown away. We returned to the hotel and dismantled the bikes attempting to fit them in the slightly too small boxes. Once they were in and we were covered in greese and dripping with sweat we chilled out in the hotels air con and updated the blog.
We had a quick drink on the roof terrace of our hotel soaking up the sea view to the front and the blue mosque view to the rear.

We headed to the restaurant for kebab lunch and on to the Hagia Sophia which is quite a grand simple structure from the outside but is impressively decorative inside.

We walked to the Galata Bridge for sunset and chilled on the comfy bean bag chairs with a few beers. Hours passed as we watched the fisherman cast and recast and life go by.

Day 71: Istanbul, Turkey!!!

Stats... 60km in 3hrs. We woke up to yet another bright blue sky and made our coffee on the gas cooker for the last time. We dismantled the tent and loaded up the bikes feeling very emotional. For the first time in 71 days I experienced cycling with the trots! I pumped myself full of immodium and just thought of the nice hotel waiting for us at the end. We were on the road by 9am and after a couple of loo stops we started to get somewhere. I must just mention that we discovered a loo that has a plastic bag wrapped around the seat and after you have finished, it rewraps itself... ingenious. We followed the D100 highway up and down severall huge hills into the city heading for the airport. For most of the way we could use the hard shoulder which was not too bad however it kept disappearing which is when it became a bit hair raising. The most dangerous part is the millions of junctions and slip roads to join and leave the highway. Generally we have a quick look over the shoulder, hope not to wobble too much then heads down, hold your breath and peddle as fast as poss... seems to work! We witnessed a car crash which really is not suprising given the way in which the cars cut and weave their way along. To top it off the road has huge drain covers with slits just wide enough for your tyre to slip through, cats eyes that are solid glass and stand approx 5cm out of the floor and very uneven tarmac surface with a few very large potholes to top it off. As we stopped at the top of a hill for a breather, we saw a small quiet road turning to the right towards the coast which looked very desirable. We decided to head that way which was a great decision. We were of the opinion that as long as we kept between the coast and the train line we would be going in the right direction. We had another short stop when we had the finishing line in our sights... the blue mosque. We cruised on round the coast with only one minor mishap where a car nearly took Kris off his bike which meant he nearly used his dog protection throwing stones as not very happy with the man in the car throwing stones!

We arrived at the blue mosque shortly after feeling triumphant, sad and relieved. We sat and absorbed the atmosphere almost in silence. It wasnt an anti climax as such but we just kind of felt numb. So much so, we forgot to take any photos! We sat and reflected on the 900,000 revalutions, 250 hours saddle time and 4,400 km (2,800 miles). Somewhere along the line we did an extra 600 miles more than expected! Once we had regained our strength we cycled the city to find a hotel. This was not a pleasurable experience as there are millions with each one trying to bleed you dry! After searching far and wide from hostel dorm to 5 stars, we settled on the Amiral Palace where the receptionist was friendly and helpful. It was a little more than we intended but we also felt as though we deserved it bearing in mind we have not showered for 3 days and we have cycled 12 days without a day off. After unloading for the last time we enjoyed some R&R before heading into the town for a celebratory dinner and to watch the sun set over the blue mosque. We had a few beers at the cheers bar and a couple of games of backgammon. We made it!

Day 70: Kamiloba, Turkey

Stats... 73.38km in 3hrs 51mins. We woke up about 8am only to find that Kris had a puncture in his front tyre! Now was this vandalism or a slow puncture? We shall never know. Once repaired we cycled 14km to a shell station for a short break then another 21km to another gas station for another short break. The wind was more favourable today and the terrain was less hilly. Our aim was to get to Silivri and update the internet. We arrived there about lunch time and found an internet cafe with a very nice owner who gave us discount and free tea. Bas needed the loo and was shown into a pretruding cupboard in the middle of the room! We had a 2ft long turkish durum kebab each and dined at the port on the waters edge. We continued for 17km to Kamiloba and found a cheap campsite. We were shown to a patch of gravel inhabited by several chickens, cats and dogs! The campsite appeared to be more like a travellers site. As we set up the tent a local introduced himself and his friends and promised to treat us to live music later on. We were then roped into a game of volleyball and dodgeball with approx 20 locals which was great fun and suddenly the atmosphere of the site improved ten fold. As the sunset we were given food from various families and taken to the beach where the 2 erols and memet sang and played the guitar for us til late. This evening was definately one of the highlights of the whole trip so far. Thanks!

We have very mixed feelings about tomorrow as we only have 50 km left to Istanbul. We anticipate the traffic to be a nightmare and we hope not to experience our first accident in 71 days on the last leg!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Day 69: Tekırdag, Turkey

Stats... 98.76km ın 5hrs 24mıns. We set the alarm for 7.15am but were wıde awake at 6.30am due to a massıve thunder and lıghtenıng storm. We made ıt to breakfast by 8am and thankfully the raın had stopped but the wınd was stıll very strong and of course ıt was a headwınd! We left at 9am after a quıck play wıth lında. We made ıt 26km to Malkara and had a brıef stop at a gas statıon then a further 12km to a gas statıon for another break where we sprawled out on some grass. Another 23km and yet another quıck gas statıon stop. Shortly after whıch we met 2 Turks cyclıng to Tekırdeg. We followed them to theır cafe and were treated wıth free drınks and some presents. It turns out the owner was also an artıst and wrote our names on some tıles as a gıft whıch we now need to get home ın one pıece! They also gave us a turkısh flag whıch we have attached to our bıkes. Thanks so much! We dıd not get far up the road when we stopped for a supermarket sweep and then as the heavens opened we had our eyes peeled for a campsıte. We were close to the coast so the fırst sıte was not too far thankfully. We set up camp and cooked dınner but unfortunately the campsıte was not the most clean or hygıenıc. Today was a struggle and took a real effort. Not only have we been cyclıng 10 days on the trot we have had a very tough headwınd the whole day and about a mıllıon uphıll then downhılls all about 200m hıgh. We are unable to check exactly here but we are sure we have clımbed over 1000m today... hard work.