Turkish farming Bul

Days on the road: 106

Kilometres cycled: 4435

Countries visited: 16

Punctures: 0

We last left you in Plovdiv, Bulgaria, as we were preparing for our final push into Istanbul, Turkey. It was around 500km away, and we had 5 days to get there…pretty simple maths really. Only trouble was, the route undulated more than Gordon Ramsey’s forehead and we’d be facing a constant headwind the whole way.

Cycling into Istanbul marked the end of our first leg of the journey and it was a seriously proud moment for both of us. We’ve cycled across Europe having never embarked on any cycling tours before, not really having much of an idea about what we were doing, and to top it all off, we did it without a single puncture. Here’s how it went.

Before getting to Turkey, we had to pass from Bulgaria and through Greece. At the Greek/Turkish border, our suspicion got the better of us and we were adamant that we shouldn’t have to pay a visa fee to enter their country. An internet session later, we passed back through customs, ever so slightly embarrassed and with the required €15.

The journey to Bul was a tough one, up every morning at 6.30, camping every night and basically smelling like tramps the whole way. Our ride was made so much more enjoyable by the amazing Turkish hospitality and friendliness.

We’ve both discovered the delights of Turkish tea, and were fortunate enough to receive free Chai at every village we passed through along the way. Locals gathering around to have their picture taken with us, friendly toots from every car, people winding down windows and giving us water marathon style, and the freedom to camp pretty much wherever we wanted, without the worry of annoying the locals.

The third night into our journey, we were slightly ahead of schedule and only had 140km left to go until we reached our target. Over a kebab dinner (pretty standard now), we contemplated an early start and a final big push, but the decision was left up in the air and we soon hit the road looking for a place to sleep.

We soon saw a farmer’s lane and headed down there, meeting a jovial tractor driver along the way. After a quick game of charades, he soon understood that we wanted to sleep on his land and a beaming smile light up his weathered face. It was quite clear that he was pissed; in fact he was completely wasted! He couldn’t stop laughing. Everything we said was met with a slap on the back, and even when we said we couldn’t speak Turkish (in Turkish…thanks Google translate), he continued to speak at us in his native tongue.

The friendly drunk farmer led us to a flat lawn area, which was perfect for camping. Normally, in this situation the farmer bids us farewell and leaves us to it, but we knew this was going to be a different night. The game of charades continued, and we think he was gesticulating that a crop sprayer would be coming over in the night and would soak us. Tired and wanted to get an early night, we said it was fine and we wanted to stay in that spot. This, of course was met with more laughter, but eventually he got back into his tractor and we started to set up camp.

A minute later, he was back out of his cab with a bag of warm boiled potatoes in his hand and a saltshaker. We have no idea where they came from, but they were pretty damn tasty and we couldn’t possibly refuse free food.

After our impromptu supper, Tom successfully tried to get a ride with the farmer and I was left alone for 10 minutes in the field. It was pretty scary as neither of us had a clue where Tom was going and I didn’t fancy wild camping alone. Turns out, they went for a quick drive to the local off licence, and by off licence, I mean a bush. A few hundred metres from our temporary home, the farmer jumped out and reached deep into a roadside bush, and like a drunken magician, pulled two cold beers.

Their return was met with a sigh of relief from me, and the farmer eventually left us to it as we enjoyed our beers. We swiftly set up camp and hit the sack, talking about the journey so far as we feel asleep. Our dreams were soon interrupted by Denzel (the famers temporary name) and Denzel’s mate. Clearly, he couldn’t believe that two English cyclers had set up camp in his field. Tom opened up the tent is his granddad boxers, and Denzel and his mate blessed us once again with their laughter, slapping Tom’s belly and pointing at his baggy chequered pants. A few awkward minutes passed and they left us to sleep.

6.30am Alarm went off and I press sleep as per usual.

6.32am Tom is tapping me on the shoulder.

6.33am Tent is falling onto us

2 minutes (in case you couldn’t work it out) after our alarm went off, the front tent pole snapped and consequently, the tent started to implode. Unbelievably, we hadn’t had a single problem with the Porchester Cottage until this point and with a two-week break ahead of us; the pole snap couldn’t have been better timed. Our decision to get to Istanbul that night had been made for us, and ahead of us lay our hardest day’s cycle, both physically and mentally.

We cycled hard and fast, and soon we were on the edge of Bul. I think we both celebrated prematurely though as we started our ‘decent’ into the densely populated Turkish city (13.7 million people). At 16.30, we climbed yet another hill in 35c heat, all the while, trying to dodge the insane traffic coming from whatever direction it wanted to. Looking at the map, we imagined that at the top of this hill, we’d be overlooking Istanbul and easily slide down the main road and end up at our hostel.

Turns out we were wrong, and at 21.45, we eventually arrived and helped ourselves to a well-deserved beer. The euphoric moment we had imagined, dissipated into the 17-gazillion cars that seemed to have their horns constantly on. Cycling through Istanbul is without doubt, one of the most mental things we have ever done. We were more than prepared for traffic, but this took it to a new level; it was London on crack.

Istanbul is incredible; it really is 24/7 and so metropolitan considering it’s Muslim background. We’ll be writing a blog based purely on Istanbul and our experience here, but to date, he is a brief summary of what’s happened so far.

  • Dancing at random bars
  • Lot of drinking
  • Electronica festival
  • The creation of bike foot club and other tattoos/piercings
  • Hair cuts
  • Kebab eating
  • New friends
  • Constant car tooting
  • General fun

Hopefully we’ll get the next blog up before we leave Istanbul, there is going to be lots of exciting things happening over the next couple of weeks, so please look out for updates along the way.

Finally, please keep on donating, every donation we receive is a huge boost to us, but more importantly, it makes a serious difference to children affected by war.

Hope you are all well and thanks for reading.

Love x

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Posted on June 26, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Pat on the back for you! Yes you WILL be sick of kebab, Turkish farmers are the craziest bunch of lovely people I’ve ever met, have some sunflower seeds and enjoy Istanbul, such a great place! Sad times for the porchester cottage though – hope that doesn’t happen half way across the Stans!! :o)

  2. Michele Doick

    CONGRATULATIONS! Wow – what an achievement (so far). You’re both looking fit, well and tanned. Enjoy your break. Take care. Michele

  3. Epic Fellas! Well done – yes, that ride in is mad hey. Really enjoying the progress. Tops.

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