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.