September 2018

My blog site ran out of media space so I have started another site. See below. If you are wondering where I am and wish to read a few rough notes on my Turkish travels, that is where it should be.

It’s not working well yet. I can’t upload photos. But hopefully it will work ok in a few days.

D98 Friday 14 September. Istanbul

After a sleepless night imagining my intended parcel being squashed, thrown, bashed and poked, I was determined to make a strong parcel. I packed the panniers, camping gear and some other minor stuff into the box then wrapped it in a whole roll of clear packaging tape and a ball of string!!

Leaving Puffin Hostel

Crossing the Bosphorus (again!) in error

PTT, the postal service was not far away. Kind staff man spoke some English and 13.1kg of stuff was dispatched without hassle. Although it did cost $172!! But it means I can now buy 10kg of Xmas shopping!! 30kg limit for plane home and I still have the bike (about 18kg) so still very tight on weight. (Sorry all those who may hope for jewels of the orient)

Since it was pouring with rain again I drank coffee and ate omelette in a Turkish back room cafe. All Turkish carpets and covered couches. Spoke with a Turkish man who had lived in England but got sick of the rain and missed his culture.

Rode bike over to Bike &Outdoors. The bike shop that the Shangri-la hotel had arranged with to box the bike. Of course nobody spoke English, they said they had no boxes, and nobody had heard from the hotel!! So I wandered around the shop, they were in the middle of unboxing a shipment of new bikes, so boxes everywhere!

So I purchased a box (TL 25) and boxed the bike myself outside their shop. Got an uber maxi which even then was hard to jam in the box. Delivered to Shangri-la where the staff were ultra courteous and helpful and didn’t even blink about storing this enormous box.

The Shangri-la is certainly a notch or two above my normal habitation!!

Empress Zoe

Empress Zoe

Took ferry back to old town (via Asia as I got on wrong ferry). Nice veterinary surgeon called Harris showed me tram set up. Frustrating not having wifi as couldn’t locate hotel for ages. Asked everyone “turn left then right. Turn right then left”!! Eventually there about 8.30pm.

D97. Thursday 13 September 2018. Erdek to ISTANBUL!! 29km total 5,727 (bike computer) 223m climb

So there it was. The last day. Mixed feelings. There’s the loss of the continuing journey. But also the relief of no more rough roads, dogs, dodgy lodgings and relentless hot sweaty climbing.

Statue for Attaturk in Erdek. Have no idea why women were lying down naked

Google translate of Attaturk’s quote on the statue: (??!!)

I left the hotel in Erdek, a nice coastal fishing cum holiday town, before 7am in order to catch the 10am ferry to Istanbul from Bandirma. After an easy crossing of the Marmara Sea , back to the “west” we docked at the busy terminal at Istanbul.

I was imagining battling the traffic but actually found a quiet, wide, smooth bike path along the waters edge below the Topkapi Palace. Remnants of old city walls being rebuilt.

Note masses of tankers out window of ferry

Big car ferry Bandirma to Istanbul

Istanbul. Photo of tankers

Drying tent beside road.

Rebuilding city walls below palace (open to public since 1923)

I’d booked a hostel room over in Beşiktaş so as to be near bike shop and Shangri-La hotel. It looked about 10km (with a hill) by bike and the traffic was chaotic. Footpaths jammed with pedestrians. I suppose you get used to this if you live in a city of 20 million people.

so I decided to take yet another ferry across the “Golden Horn”, a waterway Between 2 peninsulars on the western side of the Bosphorus. Everyone was so helpful. Got a free map from tourist info , someone directed me to the correct wharf, someone else shows me how to buy a ticket from the machine, security opens a side gate so I can get the bike through the squash, 2 men manhandle the fully loaded bike up the stairs and on to the big ferry!! Phew!! Another boat cruise.

Bike on ferry (again). Old town to Beşiktaş

Beşiktaş wharf

The puffin hostel was located inside a maze of Turkish coffee dens, restaurants, and small shops (not tourist shops). Here are the young Turkish people. The owner (?) was incredibly helpful. Carried the loaded bike effortlessly up the steep circular stairs. I have booked a single room and it is bliss. €35/night. Ensuite, clean, aircon, TV, wifi that works and very quiet. (I want to cancel my pre booked hotel (€81/n) over near Blue Mosque and stay here, but too late to cancel). One of the hotel staff took me through the maze of alleys to find a box, tape, string and marking pen, ready for tomorrow’s pack up.

Street vendors. Bread. Corn. Chestnuts. Drinks.

Outside Puffin Hostel. Panniers already posted. Off to box bike☹️[[

It poured with rain when I ventured out for dinner. Really poured. Water spouting from awnings. Deep puddles flooding the streets. Everybody trying to find some shelter.

Hostel had recommended “Balkan” restaurant and it was excellent. Atmosphere a bit bright and like a cafe, but clearly this is where the locals come for a quick, cheap, tasty meal. A long counter has a wide variety of Turkish dishes. Just grab a tray and plate and request any number of choices. Not a ham and cheese sandwich to be seen! Eggplant in yoghurt, spinach, lentils, chick peas, all sorts of dips and so on. The queue was out the door the whole hour I was there even though there was no wait for service just people continually arriving. Amazing really considering every alleyway in all directions is just wall to wall restaurants.

Didn’t sleep too well still churning over how to pack bike and camping gear to get home.

If you have read this far, congratulations to you, my blog readers! I know some family check the blog from time to time to see if I’m still alive, and where I’m located. And I know the one’s who comment, but I also know there are others who read one entry or every entry. Knowing you are there has offered some encouragement and support to me on the journey.

Ceil gave me an envelope containing tiny cards with quotes for encouragement from famous people. Churchill, Dr Seuss, Mandela, Winnie-the-Pooh (my favourite!) among others. Thanks Ceil. They have journeyed the whole distance and have been read alone and shared.

What did I learn? Kindness. I think I learned to be kind to people. Previously when I’ve travelled (mostly alone) I’ve often felt a bit vulnerable and suspicious. Is this person trustworthy? Am I being ripped off? Is this safe? But this trip made me realise how generous, friendly and helpful everyone is. Maybe it’s my advanced age!! But people were kind, and I was kind to them.

The “blog” has ended. The bike is boxed and 13.1kg of gear posted home. I’ll continue to write. To record for my own reminder this next 2 week “luxury” tour of Turkey with Jan E. I don’t expect any readers. Mind you, I didn’t expect anyone to read the bike journey ! Congratulations to you, and thanks for the feedback.

D95 Tuesday 11 September. Biga to Erdek (Sea of Marmara) Turkey. 74km 5,368. 582m climb

Today was just a grind along an increasingly busy highway. The surface and riding space is best ever, but the noise is terrible. So many trucks. My hat blows off and shirt nearly blows over my head as they pass.

Reinforces my plan to take the ferry to Istanbul from Bandirma. The roads are just going to get busier and I no longer have the time or energy to take the rough winding steep country roads that might, for a short time, avoid the traffic.

Good things still happen. I stopped at a rare occurrence of a village market near roadside. Mostly this new highway bypasses the villages and the only relief from the road is a service station with small shop or restaurant.

This was a small but fascinating market. Hand made farm tools, seeds and grains, cheeses, meats, fruit and vegetables. A man with an enormous stack of rolled filo pastry, another stall with dried fruits and Turkish delight in all colours. They were all very welcoming and insisted on giving me foodstuffs. My now heavier bike rolled out laden with grapes, apples, Turkish delight, halva, dried apricots and smiles and waves! They insisted on photos.

Roadside market

Filo pastry maker insisted on photo with me!

Later (at 4pm) I stopped for lunch at roadside cafe. Delicious. 3 stews: Okra, stuffed aubergines, chicken and potato’s, all served with real rice (not that Jasmin stuff).

Highway around south of Marmara Sea, visible in distance

As Evening fell, I left the highway and cycled around edge of Marmara sea and found a very basic campground. Well I would have preferred a fancy, clean campground with amenities but not so easy and it was already dark.

Trying to sort out logistics of how I organise bike, luggage, transport, excess baggage, accommodation (booked already, just 2 hotels are miles apart). Need to contact airline and confirm how many items of luggage. In Melb they told my strictly one only so 30kgs was stuffed in a cardboard bike box It was ridiculous. Need to know how much pre purchased excess baggage costs then compare how much cost to post 5-10kg. Need to wash bike before packing it. Need to get boxed bike and panniers to hotel I leave from and on it goes!!!

Despite all that mental gymnastics, I Slept well apart from barking dogs.

D94 Monday 10 September. Gelibolu (ferry to Lepsiki) to Biga. 61km 5294. 477m

After an almost 14 hour sleep I rolled out of the nice small hotel right on the waterfront straight onto a big car ferry just closing its gates.

Leaving Gelibolu (Europe)

Looking back to Gelibolu

There were a bus load of tourists from Hong Kong. These are the first “tourists ” I’ve seen in ages but also the first Asian tourists since maybe Budapest or Vienna.

The crossing of the Marmara Sea was only about 30mins but the waterway was busy with oil tankers, ferries and other big boats, cargo mostly.

Arriving Lepsiki (Asia)

Road to Biga

Had an uneventful ride on big shoulder of as New highway all the way to town of Biga. Some greener valleys back from the coast with crops and trees.

Was refilling water bottles at a roadside water spout and an old man gave me fresh walnuts which he smashed open on his knee. I winced! As I politely ate the nuts I wondered about the cleanliness of his hands. Oh well. Visions of wet cat in Albania came to mind but I ate them anyway.

After many abortive attempts I found a place to pump up my bike tires.

Strangely, but helpfully, my app showed 3 hotels as it negotiated the narrow busy streets of Biga. So I chose one which led me to near an impressive town hall type building.

The MRG hotel turned out to be delightful. Old and jaded. Seen better days, but it is built in front of an impressive grand old weatherboard house. The concierge took me for a quick tour. The ornate inlayed furniture was just like an antique shop.

The old wooden house. Used to be common. Only 3 left in Biga

MRG Hotel Biga

Inside the timber house

Timber house

At about 8pm the phone rang in my hotel room. Mystery. I thought must be wrong number so I ignored it. Then I wondered if maybe I’d left something in reception so I answered it. It was a lady speaking English. She introduced herself as Epek and said she and her husband Marmut owned the hotel and would I join them for dinner?

It was a really delightful evening. They are both retired university professors and had studied in America many years ago. Was so refreshing to discuss politics, food, history and so on. We didn’t eat tongue (as had been planned) and I had the lentil soup rather than “intestines” soup!

To bed at midnight.

D93 Sunday 9 September. Şarköy to Gelibolu 58km 5,233 climb 551m

Of course once I climbed the 350m back to where I turned off freeway for my terror ride to Sarkoy, there was a delightful waterfront campground within 1km!!

I’d passed small farming villages on the back road. Sunflower harvesting. Only see men in the villages, they are either sitting outside the bar drinking black tea or driving about in their tractors and trailers. No cars, just tractors!

A hot ride on freeway to ferry terminal at Gelibolu. Arrived 5.30pm. Decided to stay at Nice small clean hotel nearby. Lay down on bed around 6pm and slept till 8am next morning!!

Spent the next morning trying to do bookwork. Boatyard doing antifoul on Boat wants insurance policy and a complicated form completed. Tony booking Boat for service. Car insurance expired. Credit card payment due. Reply some emails. And of course… this blog!


Breakfast at hotel

Across from hotel Butik Gelibolu

D92 Saturday 8 September Feres (Greece) to Sarkoy (Turkey). 115km 5,175. Climb ~900m

On the busy freeway and highway all day which was unpleasant but fast. Feres was only about 15km from the border. I jumped the queue of cars. A nice family who run yacht charter in Greece and who were on their way to a conference in Istanbul let me in ahead of them. There are so many little checkpoints, I must have presented my passport to at least 4 little windows. But I’d completely forgotten about having to show my visa. I’d got an evisa months ago and I’m sure I will have saved a copy ..,. Somewhere! But of course you can never find anything in the phone when you’re on the spot and there’s a queue a mile long. Because I don’t have Internet in my phone I couldn’t open files. But I found the original email and the nice girl in the office used her phone to connect me to internet and the visa was miraculously there and accepted.

From Kiki this main road goes to ipsala and then on east slightly north to Istanbul. Only about 250km. But I want to go round the south of the Sea of Marmara and my map showed a campground and ferry at Sarkoy , about 20km off the main road to Cannakale and about 100km away.

I stopped for lunch at a service station/restaurant and finally got a decent meal. Stuffed aubergines and a bowl of rice. Delicious! I’m so tired of Balkans bad bread, cheese and ham.

I probably shouldn’t have been on the ringroad expressway around Kerak but neither should the scrap metal tinkers with their skinny horse and loaded cart – going the wrong way. The big trucks were fearsome.

The distance to my destination was a big ride especially as so many big hills. Two trucks stopped and offered lifts! I declined. Once off the highway, as it was getting dark, it started to rain and then 3 dogs attacked as I rode past some farms. I tried the “stop and fight” method which seemed to sort of work. The big brindly leader with no ears and a big snarl showing very fine teeth plus his two offsiders did stay about 2m clear of me but every time I started to cycle on they would rush in to attack. It was dark and with some traffic so I started peddling just as a car came up fast behind. I hoped the dogs would get run over. Anyway, in the melee I got away. But rode on in fear of further dogs. There were none.

It was a hilly, windy road in the dark and the rain but I needed to get to Sarkoy. It was 9pm before I road into this chaotic Turkish town/city. Men in bars everywhere. Cars, scooters, bikes in a honeycomb of streets. Turkish music in street, wedding? I needed internet so finally found a bar (all men) with wifi. There is no campground here. Nothing on Google showed a two star hotel not far away. So for about $16 I got a room. It’s cleanish and adequate. I was just relieved to find somewhere after a bit of a hellish ride. And I don’t think there is a ferry!!

D91 Thursday 6 September. Alexandroupoli to Feres (Greece) 49km 5,004. Climb 551m

Well I didn’t make it to Turkey today which created a bit of a problem as I left Alexandroupoli with €5 just enough for drinks to get to border.

Actually washed all clothes in Laundrymat in Alex and bought a map of Turkey.

The road was smooth (mostly) with a wide shoulder and not a lot of traffic. But I saw a sign to a wildlife refuge and park and after calling at the information centre and getting a map I headed down into the Evron Delta. The Evron river is the border with Turkey.

After a few km the road became TERRIBLE!! it was corrugated and rocky. Of course I didn’t turn back straight away, I hadn’t reached the delta region yet. Needless to say I wasted 4 hours rattling around in this half arid half canals region and it was late afternoon before I reemerged back onto the road.

Evron Delta. Without water!

Evron Delta

Evron Delta

When I got to the next town, Feres, it was nearly 6pm. I wasn’t sure where I was going to sleep as there are no campgrounds here or over the border in Turkey and with all the police patrols and army about I don’t think wild camping is an option. Besides I was hot and sweaty and so took a room at the basic but adequate hotel. €30 so not cheap. But I love that shower!

Had dinner at restaurant down street. Meatballs. Meals are so boring. 4 plain meatballs, some chips and a slice of lemon. No salad or vegetables. No sauce. Tasty but very dull. Music played loudly down in the square till after 1am. I was too tired to get dressed and go see what was happening.

D90 Thursday 6 September.49km. 5,004. 551m climb

Was a tough ride today along a very rough stoney track. Very scenic close to the coast, but very dry, rocky and mountainous.

Passed 2 Croatian lads riding home from turkey. They had no water so gave them some of mine. Silly thing was they only had about 4km to go till next water but unknown at the time I had about 20kms to go!!

A man in a Hilux Ute stopped and offered to give me a lift. I declined. The track was slow and hard work but I was enjoying the journey. There were various archeological sites which I explored. He gave me a bunch of grapes which was perfect.

when I got to near the end of the rough road there was a (almost deserted) beach bar. Just a canvas shelter and a fridge. The guy there said an English woman had been killed by dogs when she was walking this track. “Did you see any dogs?”!! Luckily I hadn’t. I googled that incident later and it was really true. Almost exactly one year ago. She was 53. Hiking. Makes grim reading. I’m glad I hadn’t wild camped.

Finally back on sealed road and access to some lunch (yoghurt and honey) then on to municipal campground just before Alexandropouli. Only 35 km to Turkish border crossing.

D89 Wednesday 5 September: Xanthi to Kpvovepi 91km 4955. ~250m climb

Mmmm. It’s all Greek to me too!

I don’t know if I’ve ever taken the time to say “why do this?”! Maybe I have already. I’m very forgetful

There is something very satisfying about wheeling the loaded bike to the edge of the road, rolling away, silently, and wondering what sights, adventures and encounters lie ahead.

Today the weather was cooler (maybe 28 degrees), there was a storm with thunder and heavy rain. Fortunately for me as I rode from the mountains back down to the coast, the rain stayed in the mountains. I had the benefit of dark grey clouds as a backdrop to the bright green wetlands and white birds as I passed through a Ramsar bird sanctuary. No traffic. Just me, the birds and the quiet bike.

The coast was quiet also. Hardly any bars. Scattered villages were mostly Fishermen or farmers, some holiday houses and a few tourist accommodation but not much. Acres of cotton have replaced the maize which grew closer to the mountains.

Leaving mountains. Through maize farming

Found a nice little campground back from the beach run by the most helpful woman. She cooked me spaghetti bolognaise for dinner.

Extracting white beans. He is Albanian

Porto Lagos

Monastery in middle of lake

Many buildings had colourful murals

Narrow track between ramsar lakes and the sea

Saved this turtle. I see so many sqished on the road, so I placed it on the other side of the road!!