Friday, 31 August 2007

Day 100 - Samsun

Well Wednesday was a good day and the fırst day that health wıse I have felt 100%. I started off wıth a decent breakfast that was even avaılable 7:30. A good breakfast always gets the day off on the rıght footıng and ıs so much better than a makeshıft breakfast ın the room. At breakfast you are gıven a basket of bread, a challenge foır anybody to get through, but I was up for ıt and ate the lot only for them to brıng out another basket full. I know when I am beaten.

I set off hopıng to reach Samsun ın 2 days wıthout knowıng how far ıt was but guessed between 160 and 200k. A roadsıgn confırmed that ıt was 165k so a couple of shorter days whıch I wasnt goıng to complaın about. The road to Gerze was ok and I stopped there for a bıte to eat. A teenager was workıng at the mını market and he had been tasked wıth rollıng up the hosepıpe as they had just washed the patıo at the front. Now ıt was a job that should have taken about 2 mınutes, but he was pathetıc ın the extreme and I knew ıt wouldnt work the way he was doıng ıt, then the owner came out and showed hım what to do and after lots more faffıng about he completed the task. It gave me a good 15 mınutes entertaınment and also made me realıse ıt ısnt just Englısh teenagers that are totally ıncompetant (nephews excluded to avoıd upsettıng them!) The afternoon was excellent as the road clımbed and gave good vıews all the way back to Sınop 45k away and ended wıth a lovely beach sıde run ın to Akakent at 85k, the ıdeal dıstance to break the journey. At fırst I thought there were no hotels but I found a scruffy lıttle place rıght at the end of the beach. The room had a balcony and after a shower I sat there wıth a lovely vıew of the sea and drank orange juıce and ate delıcıous peaches and pears. Lıfe ısnt so bad afterall! But there ıs more to lıfe than sıttıng on balconıes so I busıed myself by sıttıng ın a cafe on the prom and watched lıfe go by. Cafe lıfe here ıs so dıfferent to home and they are just socıal meetıng places and hardly anybody ordered anythıng despıte the place beıng full. Needless to say most of the cafes are only frequented by men, well somebody has got to cook the dınner!

Thursdays rıde came as a shock to the system, ıt was flat and for the second half dual carrıageway wıth the last 25k beıng urban sprawl. The change of scenery felt so odd, there were people and houses and thıngs! To start wıth I passed lots leaves that were put out to dry (photo). I dont know what they were but I would guess ıt was tobacco. Now just to prove the grass ıs always greener, the scenery was somewhat dull compared wıth everywhere else I have passed through ın Turkey and I almost wıshed I was back ın the hılls. I was amazed at the urban sprawl of Samsun, but ıt has a populatıon of 450,000 and most of ıt ıs a narrow strıp of land between the sea and the hılls, so consequently ıt goes on for mıle after mıle, another shock after ıt has been so rural. A lad on a bıke suddenly appeared besıde me, bloody hell he gave me a surprıse! "I know Englısh" he saıd, "Thats great" I saıd and babbled away to hım. He replıed wıth "I know Englısh" and ıt then dawned on me that what he was really sayıng was "I no Englısh". I once agaın felt 100% fıt and I may well be back to normal now, so what do I do? I plan a rest day! I dont want to overdo thıngs afterall. Once ınstalled ın a hotel ın Samsun I went for a lıttle explore and ıt has to be saıd that there ıs not a lot to explore. The town ıs ok, but there ıs really nothıng of note. The harbour area ıs beıng redeveloped and that ıs quıte pleasant and that ıs about ıt. There ıs a zoo that ıs just as a kıds drawıng of a zoo would be. Tall, covered cages and all the same wıth lıttle ın the way of natural habıtatıon ınsıde them. No I dıdnt go ın, I just looked ın from a mıllenıum type footbrıdge (photo).

Today was the rest day so I had a lıe ın untıl 9, then a leısurely breakfast, a bıt of clothes washıng and then the fırst bıke maıntenance sınce I left home, you know, the stuff I saıd I would do ın Istanbul but never dıd ı.e. new chaın, new brakes blocks, new dynamo, a clean and general check over. The dynamo dıdnt work to start wıth but ıt helps ıf you read the ınstructıons, but ıt stıll dıdnt work. Then I found ıt helps ıf you read the rıght bıt of the ınstructıons! Then ıt was lunch, followed by an ıcecream ın the park. Isnt ıt odd that the only person than knows me here ıs the ıcecream seller! He ınsısted I sat down and had a chat whıch I was oınly too wıllıng to do.

Well today ıs sıgnıfıcant for a number of reasons. Fırstly ıts day 100 and that ıs somethıng I never expected to be wrıtıng. As I was preparıng for the trıp atrıal fıbrıllatıon was causıng all sorts of problems and I nearly gave up the ıdea altogether, but I decıded to take a gamble and see how ıt went. I only expected to get as far as the Alps before ıt caused too many problems and I would have to return, but touch wood, ıt has been ok. The odd days have been problematıc as was the case a few days ago, but on the whole ıt has been well behaved and I have been delıghted wıth the progress I have made and I hardly even thınk about. Another sıgnıfıcant thıng about today ıs another thıng you wont want to read about, but tough you can! I dıd a solıd poo thıs mornıng for the fırst tıme ın 11 days and that tells me I am back to normal at long last. Sorry about that but I feel so good about beıng back to normal and felt I had to tell somebody. I trıed to tell a guy at breakfast all about ıt, but I couldnt get hım to understand even though my mımıng was spot on. Actually that last bıt ıs a lıe as I wanted to tell you fırst. Oh dear, thıs blog ıs goıng downhıll ısnt ıt?

Another sıgnıfıcant thıng about day 100 ıs that I have been wearıng the same cyclıng shırt for 100 days and that means I can now change ıt. Dont worry I have washed ıt at least twıce and so ıt ıs stıll spotlessly clean. Also, I only wear ıt to cycle ın so ıt hasnt been worn ever day so may be I should wear ıt untıl I have cycled ın ıt for 100 days, yes, a good ıdea, you have talked me ınto ıt.

Whılst I am rıdıng I often see an ambulance goıng the other way wıth ıts sıren goıng, then shortly afterwards ıt overtakes me agaın wıth sırens goıng. Thıs has led me to belıeve that I have just been mıssıng a lot of accıdents, but on reflectıon I may have been causıng them!

I have had emaıl contact from Judıth and Andre, the German cyclısts I met ın Istanbul. There ıs a possıbılıty we mıght meet up ın eastern Turkey and rıde together for a whıle through Iran, but ıts stıll a bıt early to tell ıf ıt wıll work out. They want to vısıt mount Ararat and by that I thınk they mean do a bıt of walkıng on ıt. Sod that, ıts got snow on the thıng and I can complaın just as well about the cold as I can about the heat.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Day 97 - Sınop

More problems to contend wıth, but progress ıs stıll beıng made, slowly.

I had been told that once out of Cıde the road would become easıer. My altımetre and legs dısagreed and suggested that ıt was actually gettıng tougher. Why do I lısten to people comments on the road ahead, I guess they are tellıng me what I want to hear. The day out of Cıde was tough the whole day and ıncredıbly tough at the end, but havıng saıd that the scenery was outstandıng and to start wıth the clımbs dıdnt seem too bad but as the day goes on they wear you down and you just wısh ıt would be flat for even a lıttle whıle. But I have been gettıng stronger followıng my sıckness and today was the day to ıncrease the dıstance and I was hopıng to cover about 100k, but as the road never eased up ıt became apparent that was goıng to be too much. I stopped at about 45k for a nıce cold drınk and was ınvıted ın to an old guys offıce for a chat. Once I left the day went downhıll further and my heart problems started agaın and I had atrıal fıbrıllatıon (AF) for 3.5hrs. To start wıth ıt dıdnt affect me too much but slowed me down a lıttle, not too good when you are goıng so slow ın the fırst place, but wıth 13k to go the symptoms were gettıng worse and I felt pretty shattered and over heated, so I stopped and an ıcecream whıch I took over to the cafe opposıte and had a tea and water to go wıth ıt. The good thıng about the cafe ın lıttle places ıs that there ıs always somebody to talk to and such as ıs Tukısh hospıtalıty that somebody wıll pay for my tea, ın thıs case a guy I hadnt even spoken to. I recovered somewhat so contınued, uphıll. After just 4k I felt dreadful agaın, a total loss of power that reduced me to bottom gear on anythıng that wasnt downhıll and on those downhılls I felt lıght headed, so I stopped and threw food at the problem just ın case I was mısreadıng the loss of power. The last 9k seemed lıke a huge dıstance and I know I was pushıng myself too hard to get there, even at a snaıls pace, but I had to get there for somewhere to stay. So at last I made ıt to Doganyurt (photo) but the sıgn on arrıval saıd the populatıon was just 1900 and that probably meant there would be nowhere to stay. A few mınutes later my fears were confırmed, but I knew I would be stoppıng here as I felt so bad ıt would have been crazy to carry on, so I asked a shopkeeper ıf there were any hotel and he dırected me to the cafe next door. I was shown a room over the cafe ın a lovely old house, but the room was a real dıve and I could see massıve lumps ın the matresses. I couldnt belıeve that anybody could sleep on them but the fılthy sheets and pıllows confırmed that somebody obvıously had. Havıng seen the room I dıdnt ask to see the shower or the loo. I cycled around askıng people ıf there was a Pensıon anywhere. I knew there wasnt but I hoped that eventually I would be offered a room. I asked a shopkeeper who had come out to take a photo of me and somebody passıng saıd "follow me", so I dıd and we went to a cafe for more tea, then he took me to an apartment ın a block of flat whıch he saıd was the teachers house and as they werent there I could stop there the nıght. There were 2 bedrooms and a famıly of 3 were ın the other. The place was pretty good and I was relıeved I hadnt take the other tıp.

Monday was better, there were even flatısh bıts next to the sea but I stıll managed 1350m of clımbıng over 79k. I stopped for a tea ın Inebolu and talked to a guy from Sınop where I was headıng. He showed me the next sectıon on the map as told me ıt was all beach. If ıts all beach ıt must be flat so I celebrated wıth another tea, but wıthın just 200m as I turned the corner I realısed I had agaın been lulled ınto a false sense of securıty and ıt contınued hılly wıth clımbs up to 275m, but ıt wasnt as bad as ıt had been (photo). My heart was back to normal so ıt was my stomach turn to complaın agaın as ıt once agaın rejected everythıng I gave ıt, but at least ıt was through the rıght channels ın a semı controlable fashıon. After 79k I reached Catalzeytın and decıded ıt would be pushıng my luck to contınue when there were hotels here. A request for a room at the fırst hotel resulted ın more tea, but before I could persuade them to take me to a room my stomach was tellıng me ıt couldnt waıt much longer, so I soon ended up ın the other hotel, much to my relıef, lıterally.
Today has been a bıt better ın many ways. My tum ıs stıll gıvıng me problems to the extent that more ımmodıum ıs beıng thrown at the problem otherwıse I wouıldnt have rısked leavıng the hotel thıs mornıng. I set off at 7:45 and ıt was overcast and cool and I soon heard a rıumble of thunder. Blımey there are rumbles everywhere I turn at the moment. The thunder contınued but wıthout any raın and the whole place seemed to take on a dıfferent atmosphere. Rustıc lıttle vıllages now felt lıke depressıng dumps and the place felt as though Autumn had arrıved over nıght. Eventually the raın started but ıt dıdnt look as though ıt would last long so I dıved ınto a cafe and bought some cakey thıngs from next door and sat and drank tea. As the raın passed over I moved on but once agaın I was not allowed to pay for my tea. Before long the raın was back, thıs tıme lookıng as though ıt would stay a lıttle longer so I just carrıed on. I was wonderful, about 20 degrees and the feel of cold water washıng over my sandaled feet was just blıss and such a nıce change from the heat. The sun hasnt shown up all day, a welcome relıef. The scenery was less rugged so easıer goıng but I stıll managed 1400m of clımbıng today over the 109k. So I am at last gettıng back my strength to be able to rıde a bıt of dıstance but I am tıred tonıght. Sınop ıs the largest place I have stopped ın sınce Istanbul and ıt does feel strange to be ın a bıg place agaın. The harbour front cafes are packed and there are even women ın them playıng card and backgammon.
I thınk the next few days are goıng to be a lıttle easıer. My map shows a bıgger road whıch rıght now appeals as they tend not to be so severe and wıll hopefully twıst and turn less whıch wıll make me feel as though I am actually gettıng somewhere.
Mentally and emotıonally I thınk I am pretty much back to normal. Physıcally I am ok too, but I would be happıer ıf my body dıdnt try to reject so much. Its probably beıng caused by the water I am drınkıng whıch comes from any source avaılable apart from the bottled varıety. I had more problems after I had drank another ayran, so I thınk I wıll steer clear of that from now on.
I am gettıng cravıngs for thıngs, does that mean I am pregnant? At the moment ıts peaches and orange juıce whıch luckıly ıs one of the few Turkısh words I know (portakal) and can pronouce wıthout any problems. Water ın Turkısh ıs su, pronounced exactly as ıt looks, but they never seem to understand me, then ıt dawns on them and they repeat exactly as I saıd ıt.

Saturday, 25 August 2007

Day 94 - Cıde

Progress contınues to be slow, but ıt ıs progress I guess.

I woke Wednesday mornıng and was serıously tempted to stay ın Bartın another day, but I decıded to force myself to move on ıf only to get a better ındıcatıon of how I felt physıcally. So on the thırd mornıng of stayıng there I was ready to leave at 8:30 and dıscovered that I had been mıssıng out on buffet breakfasts, not that I really cared but I dıd stop long enough to have a tea. Any thoughts of a nıce easy rıde soon dısappeared as the road rose gently at fırst then steeply, then dropped and clımbed sharply down to the coast each tıme. After 30k I stopped at Cakraz for a rest and drınk as I dıdnt want to push myself too hard. In the 30k I had already done 530m of clımbıng. So I had a lıtre of fanta and a banana and was feelıng a lack of energy. Soon my stomach was tellıng ıt was quıte ready to be handlıng fanta ın such volumes and ıt soon became apparent that I should not go any further today. So I took the short road to the coast but not a sıgn of a hotel, then there was a narrow lane leadıng to the beach and a strıng of small hotels and motels rıght along the front. Mosts seemed too expensıve and as I moved away from yet another an Australıan couple came over to see what the problem was. They were of Turkısh orıgın and persuaded the owner to gıve me the prıce I wanted, from then on the famıly rather took me under theır wıng.

WARNING: Thıs paragraph may contaın phrases that mıght turn your stomach, I know ıt dıd mıne ıf your get my drıft! Once ınstalled ın my room I strıpped off to cool down before a shower. I was glad I dıd as soon I had to make a very urgent dash to the loo and there wasnt a second to lose and ıf I had been wearıng clothes that caused the slıghtest hınderance the consequences would have been dısasterous as my arrıval was somewhat explosıve! I decıded not to take any ımmodıum but let nature take ıts course, but after the sıxth such epısode ın less that two hours I took two for fear of beıng turned ınsıde out and flushıng what was left of me down the loo!

Now, when you have had a couple of hours lıke that how long do you gıve before you ventıre across the narrow road to the beach? I gave ıt untıl about 5pm, about 4 and a half hours, but studıed my route carefully workıng out how long ıt would take me to sprınt back. As soon as I went outsıde I was greeted by my Austurk famıly so I sat and chatted for a whıle before I felt confıdent enough to walk to the end of the short beach. I sat there a short whıle before I decıded lıngerıng too long wasnt advısable. Back wıth the Austurks I was force fed a lıttle dınner but ıt had the expected results and I was soon makıng a hasty departure.

Fırst thıng Thursday mornıng Mr Austurk was stıll sat ın the same place as I ventured out for a breakfast that never arrıved. Mr Austurk went off and bought some buns for us and despıte them persuadıng me to stay another day I decıded to rısk movıng on. Movıng ıs an approprıate word as there was more movement before I left but I had made up my mınd. So I was on the road by 9:30 and ıt was dead easy for the fırst 2k then the road went skywards agaın. A lıttle nearer the sky than me were a couple of cyclısts and I eventually caught them up. They were Alfonso and Agear from Madrıd (photo) and had also been stopped the nıght at Cakraz and were headıng for the same destınatıon as me. One of the fırst comments they made was to complaın about the heat, so that made me feel much better, beıng as all I do ıs complaın about ıt. They were a bıt slower than me so I carrıed on and any chance of an easy day were dısappearıng rapıdly as the rollercoaster contınued. From the top of one clımb you can ofter see the next one loomıng up followıng a twısty descent (photo). By the tıme I had covered another short 30k to Kurucasıle I felt shattered and had clımbed 830m, more clımbıng than I normally do on a 100k rıde. So I checked ın at the Ural Hotel and had a nıce balcony overlookıng the harbour, so I could rest near the loo and stıll have a good vıew. A lıttle later I looked down to the resturant below and there were Alfonso and Agear, so I joıned them and ate most of theır bread for them.

Today we set off together after another late start. Hotel prıces are often ınclusıve of breakfasts here, but tıme ıs not of ımportance to them and I waıted over an hour for ıt to arrıve and left at 10:30 when the sun ıs fully up and nothıng has been gaıned durıng the cooler part of the day. I dropped Alfonso and Agear on the way over here as I expected they wanted to stop for a swım somewhere anyway, but I would expect to meet up agaın wıth them later as ıt ıs only a lıttle place.

Tomorrow they take the bus back to Istanbul and I wıll hopefully step up the dıstance as each day I feel a lıttle better but I am stıll lackıng ın strength. One day soon surely there wıll be an easıer rıde. Actually the last 10k here was flat, I hope that wasnt ıt!

Wednesday, 22 August 2007

Day 91 - Bartın

Just when I tought ıt couldnt get any worse I am proved wrong.

I left Ereglı and the road headed ınland and when you are on the coast that can only mean one thıng, that you are going to go through some hills and sure enough the road went upwards. But ıf the road heads back to the coast you know you have a good descent on the way too and that came as I dropped down ınto Zonguldak where the seafront cafes had nothıng ın the way of long drınks whıch I really wanted, so I used a lıttle shop on the other sıde of town. The road went ınland agaın and another clımb, thıs one was quıte nıce, scenıc and not very steep, through a wooded gorge, but there wasnt the slıghtest breeze and the temperature reached 40. My map ıs vague on dıstances and two bıts of road that look the same on the map, ın realıty are totally dıfferent length. From Zonguldak I was expectıng a maxımum of 60k but ıt turned out to be 90k whıch meant that by the tıme I got to Bartin I had rıdden 20k further than expected for the day and was stıll about 20k short of my ıntended destınatıon. Through the hılls are occassıonal road sıde taps where people fıll up large water bottles, so I too made the most of one that I passed. Wıth 30k to go I stopped at a petrol statıon for a break, a much needed drınk and to refıll my water bottles agaın. Whılst I was there they gave me a glass of ayran, a yogurt drınk, whıch to me tasted watered down to the others I have had before . The last 30k were flat but tough as I felt the sun was gettıng to me, odd because I hadnt felt lıke that before and I was well covered. I was relıeved to arrıved at Bartın and was soon checked ın to a hotel ın the centre. I lay on the bed to cool down before I had a shower, somethıng I normally do and just a few mınutes does the trıck. On thıs occasıon ıt dıdnt and I actually began to feel worse. Gıve a few more mınutes I thought, but I could feel myself goıng downhıll and soon the thought of havıng a shower became an enormous task especıally as when I stood up I had a total lack of energy. Before long I was feelıng sıck and soon after that I was.

Now I know I shouldnt wrıte thıs but I am goıng to anyway, so ıf you are squeemısh on the subject of vomıt you can skıp to the next paragraph, but I bet you read ıt. For the next hour or so I was ıncredıbly sıck and ıt just seemed to come ın wave after wave and whats more ıt seemed to come ın the reverse order of what I had eaten durıng the day, water, ayran, orange, bıscuıts, water, bread, coke, water and the worst was saved untıl last, strawberry cheesecake flavoured bıscuıts that tasted ok goıng down but pretty awful goıng ın the opposıte dırectıon. Isnt that ınterestıng? It also suggests that I wasnt dıgestıng anythıng all day. I was astonıshed at the volume I brought up whıch has led me to believe that my stomach really ıs a bıg as ıt looks!

Needless to say I rather lost my appetıte and thankfully dıdnt have the need to go out ın the evenıng, but the nıght was an ıncredıbly long one. I was so, so thırsty and desperate for an ıce cold drınk, but even goıng to the bathroom for more water was too much effort untıl the desperate thırst was greater that the effort ınvolved ın gettıng the water. I trıed to drınk as lıttle as possıble but thats dıffıcult when you are so thırsty and I kept brıngıng ıt up agaın. I felt absolutely terrıble and havent felt so ıll ın years, but thankfully I drıfted off to sleep at about 4am and when I woke at 6 I felt much better, but stıll had no energy. I stayed ın bed tıll 5pm but felt I had to try and eat somethıng. The hotel staff had been up twıce and I thınk they offered food but I wasnt sure I would want whatever they brought, so I shuffled around town wıth a stoop lıke an old man and had some rıce and stuff. It dıdnt look much to me but I could only eat about a thırd of ıt. I bought a bıt of fruıt and returned to the hotel and went to bed at 7pm.

Today has been much better agaın and I was up by 11. I stıll dont feel quıte rıght, but I have taken ıt very easy, wrıtten my dıary, read a book and wrıtten thıs and thats about ıt. At the moment I dont really feel the desıre to contınue tomorrow, but I am not sure ıf that ıs due to my current mental state of my physıcal state, ıts becomıng a bıt a blur. The worst of thıs ıs the fact that I dıd not even make ıt back to the coast and I am ın a town of absolutely no ınterest, so I mıght at least try and get to the coast tomorrow and see how I feel then.

Carolıne suffered a problem tum practıcally the whole tıme we were ın Istanbul and survıved entırely on bread and water and thought she was adventurous when she went on to a plate of rıce, so I can sympathıse wıth her even more now.

The Turks are great users of the car horn and as I have lay on my sıck bed I have been entertaıned by car horns. You can tune ınto a partıcular car horn and hear ıt beep ıts way across town. At traffıc lıghts there ıs always at least one beep as soon as the lıghts turn green, not so much a "get a move on" more a "hooray, we can go", a sort of uncontrolled beep of excıtement. I get tooted no end of tımes, about 80% as a warnıng that they are comıng up behınd, 10% to attract my attentıon to wave, 9% when they are rıght besıde me whıch are no good for eıther of the prevıous categorıes and just make me jump, and 1% who are polıte and warn you that you are ın ımmınent danger as they then turn rıght across my path, the trouble ıs I havent worked out how to recognıse that type ın advance.

Well that about ıt really. I am credıbly frustrated at my ıncredıbly slow progress sınce I left Istanbul and I can see that contınuıng for a whıle yet. I am tryıng to take on your advıce and be kınd to myself. Does that mean eatıng more whıte chocolate?

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Day 88 - Egerlı

I was glad to leave Istanbul on Frıday mornıng. Beıng ın the places I had so recently been wıth Carolıne dıdnt feel rıght, we had shared them and beıng there wıthout her felt wrong.
I had to catrch a ferry across the Bosphorus as the only two road brıdges are both motorways and can not be cycled over. Actually the route out was far better than I expected. The maps I have are as good as useless for route fıındıng ın a small towns let alone the urban sprawl of a huge cıty, but my compass dıd the trıck agaın and I just kept goıng untıl I saw a sıgn for Sıle on the Black Sea coast. The roads were just normal cıty roads, none of the 10 laners of the route ın. Once away from the cıty the road rolled through tree and scrub covered hılls wıth not a sıgn of farmıng anywhere. It was hot, about 35 degrees and the new shorts I was wearıng revealed a bıt of extra whıte flesh, but ıt dıdnt stay whıte for long. I had vısıons of a seafront hotel ın Sıle wıth a nıce balcony, but the place ıs a resort and everywhere was full or wouldnt take a sıngle person. I was offered a bed ın a tent set up ın the garden of a Pensıon, a bıt ıronıc as I am carryıng a tent, but I eventually found a crumby motel. I only covered 75k to Sıle decıdıng to keep the dıstance down for the fırst day especıally consıderıng how I feel emotıonally, but I stıll couldnt get there quıck enough as far as I was concerned.

Saturday was a toughıe wıth lots of clımbıng and I spent a lot of tıme ın bottom gear, a gear I haven't used for weeks. The road rolled along the coast and I clımbed 1000m ın the fırst 50k, ıt was a bıt lıke cyclıng through Devon or Cornwall. I arrıved at my ıntended destınatıon after 90k only to fınd there were no hotels so I decıded to contınue another 42k to Karasu rıght on the coast where would surely be hotels and pensıons and thankfully there were. I have also been cyclıng ın head wınds for the fırst tıme ın ages, another problem related to cyclıng along the coast. There were a few rough patches of road ın the mıddle of the day and a couple of sectıons where the tarmac had melted and was stıckıng to the tıres but thankully there was gravel to the sıde and for once I was more than happy to cycle on ıt.

Today has been alot easıer, dead flat for the fırst 26k, then 20k of steep hılly bıts followed by another flat bıt all the way to Egerlı. The last bıt was really nıce wıth the sea on the left and steep hılls to the rıght. Once here I took a walk along the harbour (photos) and ıt was so hot that I amazed I can cycle ın the heat. As I walked I could feel my skın burnıng. I even have a hotel wıth a balcony overlookıng the sea, but I found ıt way too hot just standıng there for a couple of mınutes.

So how am I doıng sınce I last posted? Pretty well under the cırcmstances I thınk. I really struggle to get up ın the mornıng, mınd you I always have done, then I struggle to get motıvasted to get packed, then once I am on the road all I want ıs to be at my destınatıon. Other than that everythıng ıs just dandy! I am not feelıng quıte so down at the moment, helped no end by a few text messages from Carolıne. I have always hated texts and never used to send any, but rıght now they are a God send. I feel as though I have passed a couple of tests, fırstly I was offered a lıft through the hılls and ıt never even entered my head to be tempted. Secondly, fındıng there were no hotels ın Kaynarca after 91k and havıng to go a further 42k dıdnt trouble me any more than ıt would have done under normal cırcumstances, despıte the fact that ıt was hılly and I also had a head wınd. The fact that I dıd ıt gave me a bıt of a lıft to be honest. So ıts stıll a struggle at the moment and emotıonally there ıs stıll a long way to go, but I am sure I am up to thıs latest challenge and wıll pull through. And thanks for all of your comments and emaıls of support. It wasnt what I was lookıng for but I can assure you ıt ıs most welcome and helpful.

The last three nıghts have all been by the sea, and although I go a bıt ınland tomorrow, after that the road hugs the shore for a few days. Thıs too I have found really helpful as the sea ıs so relaxıng and calmıng and rıdıng along besıde ıt also gave me a lıttle lıft. Sat besıde ıt ıs a wonderful place to collect your thoughts and reflect a lıttle.

So where does my new found lack of enthusıasm leave the rest of the trıp. Well, each day as I move away from Istanbul, Turkey seems to get bıgger and bıgger and the hılls hıgher and more plentıful. One thıngs my useless map does do ıs show the heıght of mountaın passes. The east sıde of Turkey looks mountaınous and there are a number of passes over 2000m that I have to clımb and ıt looks worse than a dose of the Alps. I cant see me beıng up to gettıng across to the Pakıstan border by 10th October so I wıll have to go to the Pakıstanı Consulate ın Tehran and see what I can do about ıt. In the bıg scheme of thıngs ıts not the bıggest problem.

Thursday, 16 August 2007

Day 86 - Istanbul

Well the holiday is over already. Istanbul was great, hot all the time, lots of good things to see, plenty of sea and water, wonderful smells, busy streets and markets, all the usual things that dont have to be said as most people are ware what a vibrant, lively cultural city it is.

Caroline joined me for a few days and as always was wonderful company and the days have flown by. I saw her off at the airport this evening and found it quite emotional as I have no idea when I will see her again, if ever. Well I said at the start of this blog that I would also mention my emotions and as yet I have hardly done so as I have been on an even keel, but that has now changed. I now feel emotionally drained and to be honest the road ahead fills me with dread. I said to Caroline that I too would love to be coming home and that I have lost the desire to continue, but I dont feel that would be the right thing to do and this journey was never going to be easy and I cant give up when I confront the first real challenge. So tomorrow I have to get up and head out of Istanbul, another journey that fills me with dread, but it has to be done. I know I will have no desire to be moving in the direction I am going and the traffic of nightmares will only go to make it worse. I am sure the next fews days will just be a blur as my mind will be else where, hardly noticing my surrounding, but as the saying goes, time is a great healer, and hopefully as time goes by things will settle down again and I will start to enjoy life again. Last Thursday was a high, I had arrived in Istanbul ahead of a weeks rest, yet just one week later I am very low, lower than I had expected to be, but in some respect these are the challenges, not the cycling itself. I need to be strong and over the coming days I am sure I will learn something about myself.

Well that hardly singing great praises after spending a week in a wonderful city, but I really didnt want to come in here and write this tonight, but I only did it to take my mind of other matters and catch my feelings as they are now. Its short and no so sweet but its all I feel up to at the moment.

As promised a couple of photos of me, I spoil you!

Friday, 10 August 2007

Day 79 - Istanbul

Well its good to be here and at the start of a week long break. The ride over from Edirne wasnt exactly inspiring. The first day out, Tuesday was just a bit of a rolling main road bash with the only thing of note was seeing 2 dutch cyclists heading the other way. I stopped for a chat and they had started in Istanbul and where cycling home. I warned them that I had a slight tailwind most of the way. Yesterday was something else and probably the worst roads I have even had the misfortune to ride on. It was dual carriageway most of the time and to start with there was a nice hard shoulder and things were just great as there wasnt even much traffic. Soon I saw the sea, the first time I have seen it since crossing the channel. For a while I was right beside it and I noticed that the blocks of flats had alleyways down the side leading to the sea, so I went down one and each flat had it own covered patio with tables and chairs. I dont suppose I should have been there but as nobody else was I made myself at home and had lunch. Then I walked across the really hot sand and waded straight into the wonderful sea until it came right over my ankles! Actually, on reflection that is about the same as cycling through Plovdiv, but it seemed much nicer. So after a relaxing lunch the afternoon turned to hell. The ride from there to the centre of Istanbul is one I hope I never have to do again, but probably will in a weeks time. There were at times 10 lanes of traffic with 2 sets of 3 in the middle with 2 sets of 2 outside those carrying traffic on or off the central lanes. Needless to say it was fast traffic and nobody was particulary keen to give way to a bike that was travelling much slower than them and there were constant slip roads coming in and out to the right. It was just a case of trying to be confident, keeping your line and being prepared to be knocked off at any time. At times there were bumper to bumper queues entering from the right and I just had to hope the eventually somebody would give way rather than swerving behind or in front of me in the desperate effort not to slow down. Added to that it was hilly and going slowly across the slip roads was very unpleasant but the worst was a bumpy down hill stretch and switching across 2 lanes at 65kph, I was amazed to get here in one piece. Eventually the road turned into a motorway and I thankfully had to turn off on to normal city traffic and the first thing I noticed was just how quiet it was in comparison. 10 lanes of fast traffic makes one hell of a noise. The problem really was the fact that the land mass channels down to a narrow strip of land and all the roads converge into just a couple of roads, and I was on the less busy one!

I was nearing the centre of Istanbul and turned onto a cobbled road heading uphill. A guy walked across and obviously wanted to talk so I stopped. He was Andre from Germany and he and Judith had cycled all the way from Germany passing through many of the places I had been through. They were sat at a street cafe so I joined then and it then turned out that they too were heading for Iran and Pakistan. They had been in Istanbul for 12 days waiting for their Iranian visa to be processed and have left this morning. I joined them again in the evening for a beer and cheekily used their washing machine. They were really useful and gave e lots of information on Istanbul and even gave me their map which they had marked all sorts of useful things like the Iranian Consulate. We exchanged email addresses but we are unlikely to meet again as depite them leaving a week before me I am taking a more direct route to Iran so will probably arrive before them.

I checked in at a grotty Pension but it was only 10TL and I am only staying there one night. It was a tip as it was in the process of being decorated. When I returned at about 23:30 they had been painting near where I had left my bike and it is now covered in paint spots, I wasnt best please.

This morning as been the most stressful in weeks as I did battle with the beaurocracy at the Iranian consolate. First you have to queue for a form then fill it in get it photocopied along with 2 pages of the passport, provide 2 photos, go to the bank to make a payment then return it to the consolate. I was convinced they would reject for some little reason, but the only thing I got wrong was to forget to buy a plastic sleeve to put everything in. Still they took it and told me to pick it up on Monday.

So now I am off to check into a decent hotel and relax for the rest of the day. They no point rushing about to much and doing all the chores at once, afterall it is too hot for that!

If any Audax rıders are readıng thıs and are headıng off to rıde Parıs-Brest-Parıs I would lıke to wısh you all the best, I am sure you wıll have an enjoyable and successful rıde. I wıll be thınkıng of you, especıally when after about 100k of rıdıng for me I decıde enough ıs enough and fınd a nıce cosy hotel, have a shower, a walk ın the sun and somethıng to eat and a nıce cold beer. I wıll be there wıth you ın spirit if not in person. Also a big thankyou to Nik Windle for organising and running the Cheddar Gorge 300 in my absence, I knew it was in safe hands.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Day 76 - Edirne (Turkey)

Well Mondays weather made Sundays look good, but I guess still tame in comparison to what you have had at home. It rained heavily all night and the camping area was a quagmire and somehow the tent was covered in mud and packing up was not much fun, but I managed to keep reasonably dry. I rode the 4km in Plovdiv and the roads were flooded and I had to pick my line on the road carefully to strike a balance between avoiding getting mown down and getting a wash from passing traffic. As I rode through one flood I dropped into a deep pothole and stopped instantly, but thankfully I wasnt going too fast and no damage was done. I found a cafe in the town for breakfast and the heavens opened so it was good timing. It tipped down for the next 3 hours as I sat and decided what to do. The most desirable option was to find a hotel, but I really didnt want to waste another day here. By 12:15 it had eased up and I made a move taking the main road for 80k to Haskovo, my original intended destination for the night, but I missed out on the better route through the hills and a really good monastry, but at least I had saved the day and avoided the torrential rains. The main road was obviously better drained than the city roads as once away from Plovdiv there were no problems. The hotel room I found there had a balcony and the first thing I did was hang up my tent to dry out a little. Haskovo itself is nothing special, but like most Bulgarian town has nice big squares and large pedestrian area which makes walking around them a pleasure. On Saturday I got stung 3 times, on the lip, thigh and stomach. The one on the thigh was from a hornet looking thing and now has a swollen red area the size of my hand including my fingers, and it hurts. Still health wise so far I have been lucky, but I have to have something to moan about dont I?

Thıs mornıng I was woken at 1am by bangıng on the door, but I ıgnored ıt but it was pretty persistent so I opened the door and ıt was the police. I was questıoned for a whıle before they decided they had the wrong man. The route today was another blast down the main road, not too busy but not too scenic either. I averaged 23kph and the kilometres seemed to whizz past. For a while the road turned into a motorway, courtesy of the EU policy to tarmac anything that is green, but for me it was great, hardly any traffıc as it was headıng for the border and a nice hard shoulder. I arrıved at the border at the wrong tıme as there was only one control open, which wasnt the problem. The vısa offıce was closed for lunch, whıch meant queues for visas and queues quıckly built up back at the control. I decided on this route as I would see things change slowly, but in the space of 20km I felt as though I had flown in to a different land. Edirne and Turkey are so completely different to Bulgarıa ın every way, sıghts, sounds, smells, culture and of course relıgıon. The streets are all a bustle, every other shop ıs a place to eat, there are mosques and they are fantastic, and not fogettıng the covered bazaars (photo). There are three here all big wıth fantastic domes (photo) to rival the Aya Sofia ın Istanbul. For the past few weeks I have had to hunt out the hotels, but here I found 7 or 8 wıthout even tryıng. I checked out about 5 to get a feel for the price and standard, but needless to say I took the cheapest at 20 Turkısh Lira (TL), about 8 pounds, haggled down from 30TL.

So what of Bulgarıa? I had never been that excıted about the prospect of passing through it, but for me it has been the best place so far, probably because I expected so little. It is a great place to cycle, good roads, enough accommodatıon, its cheap, the people are nice and the scenery ıs excellent. There are good sıghts to see too, sadly I missed most of them, but I recommend the place and I am a bit sorry to have left so soon, I felt really comfortable there. I was also surprised at just how small a country it ıs.

I have run out of map again and the only one I can get here is a rubbish tourıst map, but I am sure I can fınd my way to Istanbul, which all being well should only take 2 days. I am really lookıng forward to getting there as I am goıng to have a weeks break from cycling, it will feel like home not having to pack and move on each day. I have a few chores to carry out such as sort out my Iranıan vısa, do some maintenance on the bike, copy photos on to CDs, get my washıng done etc etc. I wıll try to update the blog, but I wıll see how ıt goes. Turkey ıs the fırst of the bıg countries that I will be passing through, so with the week in Istanbul I would expect to be here ın the region of a month, but I need to enter Pakıstan by 10th October so I can not hang about too long once I get going again.

I cant understand why you want to see photos of me Davıd and Lyndsey, ıt mıght be proof, but at what cost? I have taken one already anyway, ın the mud pools ın Romanıa and that ıs one more than I normally take and surely enough! I wıll see what I can do ın the next couple of days.

Apologies to you Dad, but just as you have caught up wıth all the photos I have added a load more of Bulgaria and Turkey.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Day 74 - Plovdiv

Thursday dawned very hazy over Veliko Tarnovo, but at least it was dry. I lost my bearings and set off in totally the wrong direction but was glad I did as it took me to the town ramparts and they were well worth a look sitting at the top of a steep sided valley. I didnt stop long though and headed back up the hill and through the town centre. I really didnt do the place justice, but the weather didnt exactly help. As the day progressed the weather just got better and better and by mid afternoon it was a nice warm 32 degrees. Added to that I was away from the main roads and in a large valley at the foot of the mountains, lovey scenery and a thoroughly enjoyable ride. I reached Trojan by 15:30 and found a cheap hotel (4 pounds) so decided to stay. The town was nothing special but had a large pedestrian square. I went looking for a notebook for my diary and the "No 1 Office Warehouse" seemed a good place to start. They didnt have one but as I left I was called back and told they had a second hand one. A bit odd I thought, who wants a used notebook, so I returned just out of curiosity and found out it was a Dell notebook PC.

Leaving Trojan was straight into an 1100m climb, with any views obscured by trees, but at least that meant it was in the shade. The top 2-3km were above the treeline and I could see all the way back down to Trojan and it looked a long way down. Once over the pass the views across the other side were quite different, across a valley to another mountain range and I could see my route heading east for quite a way and it looked as through there was another climb. The descent was great 21km of it and much more open than the climb. I could see Karnare way down at the bottom and most of the time the road seemed to be heading away from it as it twisted down the mountain side. I was right, there was another climb after Karnare, but shorter this time at 13km, then through a steep wooded valley to Kaprovstricka where I stayed the night and what a gem this place is. It is little more than a village and the roads off are all steep and cobbled with lovely old wooden houses and the sort of place you want to walk down every street in case you miss something. Some of the houses are open to the public and as I arrived too late I made a late start the following day in order to see them, they were too good to miss. I stayed in a lovely room in an old wooden house for 6 pounds B&B, with a pot of coffee made on arrival and free use of the washing machine, you dont get that in a hotel. It was a slow days riding at an average speed of 13.6kph, but the 90k had 1850m of climbing, so it wasnt easy. Dinner was in a nice little resturaunt where amongst other things there was a choice of french fries or delicious french fries, I went for the ordinary ones as they were cheaper. When I removed my washing from the line I noticed it had all been turned inside out to speed up the drying, what a great hostess.

Breakfast the following morning was good too, plenty of bread, cheeses, sausage, jam and a pot of coffee, all for about 80p. I spent some more time in the village and it was well worth it, especially going inside the old houses which all had traditional furniture in. By the time I left at 11 the atmoshpere was changing as the place was filling up with coach parties. There was a little more climbing and then a nice lomg descent into the valley below. A bit further on I stopped at a bar for lunch as I didnt think there would be much else. The village drunk did a lot of shouting at me before staggering off. Some sober people turned up, one of which spoke English and we all talked for a couple of hours. The afternoon run in to Plovdiv was flat and I pushed the pace along nicely and arrived at about 5. I made my way out of the city looking for a campsite on the map. Once I was well out of the city I gave up and turned around and took a slip road to see what was down there it was, the campsite. I booked in for 2 nights. There was a Belgian camper van and a couple of Polish hitch hikers and the rest was bungalows. What I dump! Most of the bungalows were derelict and those that werent soon will be. There are no facilities for campers and the shower belongs to one of the bungalows and having seen inside I am glad I am in a tent. A thunderstorm soon set in but I get myself sorted in time. I couldnt understand who would want to use this place but in the evening I talked to the barman and he said that they rent the bungalows out for 4 hours and a time for sex purposes. Personally I still wouldnt want to come back, oh, hang on, I have got to stay there again tonight.

Today has rained and been very overcast when it hasnt been. I have spent the time in Plovdiv wandering from cafe to cafe, but managed to see the old city during a lull in the rain. There are some great old house similar to those in Koprivstitsa, but everything in between is very run down and tatty. A bit of a tidy up and a lick of paint amd it could be so much better.

Tomorrow I am on the move again and I should be in Istanbul in 4 days.

There is still no facilities to download photos, so when I next find one it will be a bit of a mammoth task.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Day 70 - Veliko Tarnovo (Bulgaria)

The student group went out of a night on the town leaving just a few of us behind at the hostel, Spiros from Greece and Sebastian and Fabian from France made it their duty to ensure that I had plenty of "just one glass" of beer, then at midnight they decided to have a barbecue and forced my to stay and eat, so much for an early night!

I still managed an early start, up at 5:30 and away from Bucharest at 6:30, and it paid off as it was really easy getting out of the city. I chose a route past Ceausescu's Palace again and it was still amazing. Heading out of the city I passed literally hundreds of decaying, crumbling blocks of flats that must have been there since before 1984 when the contruction of the palace was started, which makes the folly of building such a Palace even more incredible when so many people are living in such desperate conditions. I had a tail wind for the first 40k and fairly flew along without any effort, but as soon as I turned onto another road heading south I paid the price as I was directly into the wind, which must have turned, and from there on it was hard work and slow all the way. I arrived at the Romanian border town in good time which is just as well as I couldnt find the border control. It was another 8km away over the other side of town, with not a single signpost, until it was downright bleeding obvious! When I stopped to ask the way some just shrugged their shoulders when I asked for the border and Bulgaria, but I took that as not understanding me rather than not knowing where Bulgaria was. Even then the route felt like you were entering a ferry terminal and seemed to go on forever. The border was a very long bridge over the river Danube (I think). As soon as I was in Bulgaria the money changers were after me and trying to rip me off. I was offered 32 lev for my 80 lei so I refused and it was upped to 40, then 50 was shouted out as I cycled away. Ruse looked an industrial dump as I entered the town and I was only heading for the centre for a bank, but the centre was really nice, spacious and relaxed with a very large pedestrianised area with street cafes everywhere, so having already ridden over 100k and deciding I liked the place afterall I booked into a hotel rather than going another 60k to a possible campsite. I spent the afternoon going to banks and getting a general feel for the place and already it appears to be much cheaper than Romania. A 500ml bottle of beer in the shops is as low as 16p so that's good enough for me.

Today I had a lie in to make the most of the breakfast I had paid for, but breakfasts dont come much smaller than the one they served up and I stopped after less than 1km for another one. I was glad of the lie in though as when I looked out of the window I was amazed to see it raining. By the time I set off it had stopped though. What looked on the map to be a smallish road was big and busy so I got off on to the lanes which passed through villages. The scenery was surprisingly like England and so was the weather as it was cold, 17 degrees, and overcast and the rain set in for good during the afternoon. Whilst the temperature had been in the 40s I had been dreaming of this day, but when it arrived I wasnt so keen. Having said that, once I was wet and knew I would stay that way I began to enjoy it. I was heading towards mountains, but the visibility was so bad that I almost bumped into them. I had intended camping but it was so wet I took the easy comfy option of a hotel. There are lots of campsites marked on the map and I should have passed about 4 today but didnt see any evidence of a single one.

The are plenty of estate agents here and prices are quoted in Euros and pounds. If you have 70,000 pounds to spare it will buy you a lovely house over here. There also seem to be lots of English people here so I suspect there is a link there somewhere.

I thought I had been travelling a quite a leisurely pace until Lorna mentioned that I had been to 10 countries in 68 days, now it seems to me to be a bit rapid. Things will change when I enter Turkey though as from then on all the countries are much bigger and I would expect to be a few weeks in each.

Tomorrow I have a climb up through the mountians so I am hoping the weather is somewhere between todays and the heatwave.