Days 210 to 215 – TURKEY: From Turkey into Greece

I lost my pen a while back, so all I have to remind me of the last few days is photographic evidence. So let’s begin.

Sleeping in half finished building in M.Eregilsi, Turkey

Ah yes. The first day out of Istanbul was cold, wet, and generally ugh-ish. The tailwind was the only saving grace, and I managed to squeeze 120kms out of the lightened and slicker recumbent. I feel like I’m riding on air now. Losing about 10ks of luggage has made a huge difference. The road was dead straight, and had plenty of long gentle ups and long gentle downs. Traffic was light enough (it was Sunday). The four lane highway was definitely not my preferred environment however.

Sleeping in half finished building in M.Eregilsi, Turkey

The next day, Day 211, was spent sleeping in the half-finished building that I had slept in the night before. The quiet lapping of the waves (the buliding was right on the sea front) was a much better environment to rest in compared to the hustle and bustle of Istanbul. At about 4pm, two builders wandered through the building. Upon seeing me they dragged me out of my sleeping bag and greeted me with great joyous pats on the back. Almost as if foreign tourists are found sleeping in their buildings all the time.

Friendly chaps shouted me coffee and cheese in Tekirdag, Turkey

Day 212 was accentuated by two happy meetings. One was thanks to the owner of the small shop above, who gave me cheese and a coffee to go with my bread that I bought. Thanks guys! The other was thanks to Mutlu Polat, who hooked me and another traveller (Hose, a Spaniard walking from Spain to Israel) up with a room in his house for the night. Thank you Mutlu!

Mutlu (center) let us sleep in his house in Yenice, Turkey

Hose was an amazing inspiration. He left his home in Spain 8 months ago with no money, and only a back pack and sleeping bag. He walks about 30kms a day. He has no rain gear, no flash trekking boots. He relies on the kindness and generosity of strangers in order to make his way to Jerusalem. He still has no money, and throughout Europe has stayed often at churches. I have no doubt that he will have no worries in Turkey either. The Turks will take him in.

Endless straight road to Greece (near Malkara, Turkey) Endless straight road to Greece (near Malkara, Turkey)

Day 213 was straight. Dead straight to Greece. The gentle undulations continued right up to the border. These roads are no fun. Nothing to stimulate the mind. Give me the murderous hills of the Black Sea coast any day.

Greece! Freaking woooohoooo!

I sat next to this sign for a good 15 minutes. Trying to take it all in. Greece. I am in Greece. Europe. Stoked. Just stoked. To celebrate, I slept in a thicket under a bush.

Must be Greece (near Ferai, Turkey)

The next day (Day 214) I set out in a thick fog. Little letterbox-like constructions at intervals of about 500m each crept out of the fog as I rode by. In each was an icon of the Mother Mary, along with a bottle of water. Holy water I presume. Must be some of those Christians about…

I can't help it - Ancient cobblestone roads near Alexandropoli, Greece

The road from Alexandropoli (how Greek is that name!) going towards Thessaloníki is a big fat expressway. I found some repose for a little while when I spied signs indicating an old cobblestone road. I took this road for a few kms until it got too stony, then braved the expressway again until Mesti, where a smaller secondary road escapes the madness, going northwards for a bit before running parallel to the expressway.

Hideyuki (cycling from Portugal to Japan), met near Sapai, Greece

It was near Sapes that I met the second cycle tourist I have met since I started from Japan. Hideyuki is cycling from Portugal to Japan via a similar route to me through central Asia. The poor bloke. He doesn’t like hilly roads. Therefore he was looking forward to the flat riding along the Black Sea coast of Turkey. I felt bad for dispelling his mistaken assumption. I made sure he was aware about the torture that awaits if he chose to take on the Black Sea coast.

Mad catipillar line near Komotini, Greece

A photo for the insect lovers out there. What’s the deal with this? Why are the caterpillars all in a line? I never seen noting like this before.

Greek feta cheese

A photo for the cheese lovers out there. You have no idea. You know how your favourite cheese from the local store around the corner is really really yummy? You have that favourite brand of cheese that you rave about? You are living in denial. This Greek feta is the most amazing cheese I have ever tasted. Ever. Ever. And it was the cheapest stuff in the supermarket! If 3 Euro per kilo cheese tastes this good, I fear the 9 Euro a kilo stuff that was sitting idly beside the cheaper stuff. I am in love.

Slept in the pagoda under the trees (Komotini, Greece)

Today is Day 215 (I am now in Komotini), and last night I slept in the garden/forest of this dainty church. There was a pagoda with benches and a table. I slept like a baby. Satoshi, a regular on this blog, mentioned that I should stay at churches and monasteries etc in Mediterranean countries. Stoked. Looks like places like this may be a frequent occurrence here in Greece. With the extra cost of food and internet (2 Euro per hour for internet now), sleeping at hotels/hostels in Europe looks off the cards all together. I prefer it that way anyway…
As always, I am encouraged and uplifted by all the comments from visitors to the 14degrees blog. I apologise if any questions may go unanswered or unacknowledged due to time restraints here in the internet cafes. You can rest assured that every comment is read and savoured! I really do appreciate the mental support that even though I am on the road alone, I am being watched by many.

Days 205 to 209 – TURKEY: Istanbul

The 14degrees team is a new team. It is an ultra-light, ultra slick team. It has gone through some fairly major reforms over the past few days, along with a decent dose of sightseeing.I have replaced the cables and cable housings on the bike, cleaned the chain, and the big news is that I have removed the lowrider luggage carrier, along with the two panniers that used to hang off it.

I don’t know how on earth I managed to have enough stuff to fit into six separate bags, but I have done a major clean up, and now fit all my gear into only two and a half bags.

I have sent my tent home, replaced by a bivy bag. I have thrown out my water filter, some tools, the spare tyres, and have chopped my first aid kit in half.

Box of gear sent home (Istanbul, Turkey)

I doubt if my luggage is now much more than 15kgs. I look forward to the slicker cycling.

I have also gotten rid of the facial fluff. I must have saved at least 30 grams there.

The original plan was to keep the fluff until England, but I had put up with it for 200 days, and that was quite enough. Going, going, gone!


Going Going Going Going

Gone, in Istanbul, Turkey

Istanbul is an impressive place.

Hagia Sophia Museum, Istanbul, Turkey

Hagia Sophia Museum, Istanbul, Turkey Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

Tofa's car? (Istanbul, Turkey)

Day 204 – TURKEY: Sahilkoy to Istanbul

Well, I’m 3 months late, but I have made it to Istanbul. The original plan was to meet my Japanese host parents here on the 14th of November last year. Ahem.The last push to Kavak town, where I caught a ferry to central Istanbul, was some of the better cycling I have had in Turkey. Plenty of hills once again, but much of it was up on the top of the hills that looked over the Bosphorous Straight.

View from ancient castle in Kavak Town, Bosphorous Straight, Turkey

Getting to Kavak Town required navigating some fairly small back roads up on the hills. Kavak town itself was not signposted, so I was asking locals often for the way.

Keep out sign in Anadolu Feneri, Bosphorous Straight, Turkey

I arrived just in time for the 3pm ferry to central Istanbul, and met some fellow travellers for the first time since T’Bilisi, the capital of Georgia.

There were no issues with putting the bike on the ferry for the 4 Lira, 1.5 hour trip down the Bosphorous Straight.

Bike motif on truck in Anadolu Feneri, Bosphorous Straight, Turkey

Day 203 – From Agva to Sahilkoy

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 64.37km
Average speed / 平均速度: 10.6km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 6h 00m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 3487.7km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +1220m
Descent / 下り: -1195m
Last night at the internet cafe I found some detailed maps of the area between Agva and Istanbul, so I had all the inside info on small roads.

My route today took me through the tourist town of Sile. Much bigger and certainly cleaner than Agva, Sile appeared to have many visitors from Istanbul.

I sat on the marina and ate my bread and jam for lunch while other visitors enjoyed their grossly inflated priced lunches at the nearby cafes.

Sile Town, Black Sea coast of Turkey

Past Sile, I contined along the small back roads, and came across a television drama being filmed. The director (Ercan Yildiz) was a very welcoming chap, insisting that I have a few cups of tea while I watched the action. The drama is called Kalpgozu, and it appears on Channel 7 in Turkey on Sunday evenings at 7:30pm.

Filming a drama in Sahilkoy, Turkey

I met one of the main actors, Halil Can, who apparenty had a New Zealand girlfriend at one stage.

Afterwards, I rolled into a beautiful cove on the coast, home to many beautiful holiday homes, and a very welcoming big dog. This dog, as massive as he was, took a liking to a walnut on the beach, and would bring it to me to throw ito the water.

Friendly dog in Karacakoy, Black Sea coast of Turkey

Friendly dog in Karacakoy, Black Sea coast of Turkey Friendly dog in Karacakoy, Black Sea coast of Turkey Friendly dog in Karacakoy, Black Sea coast of Turkey Friendly dog in Karacakoy, Black Sea coast of Turkey

I ended the day at Sahilkoy Village, pitching the tent near the beach under the porch of a closed seaside cafe.

Day 202 – Chamkonak to Agva

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 79.67km
Average speed / 平均速度: 11.8km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 6h 43m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 3424.0km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +1140m
Descent / 下り: -1130m

Plenty of climbing, but overall a perfectly pleasant day of riding. I was feeling rereshed from the day and a half of rest at Chamkonak.

Agva is a tourist town, but what a mess. Trash on the beach, stray dogs everywhere, and unfinished road works. I pitched the tent in a closed camping ground, yearning for the perfect campspot I had enjoyed in Chamkonak.

Holey road signs Batman! (Near Agva, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

Day 201 – Chamkonak

I set no alarm today. Sleeeeeeeep…

Woke up at 7:30am anyway, just coz I am in that zone. Wandered down to the mosque to fill up on drinking water. They have a spring at the mosque in Chamkonak. The sun was rising over the water. Magic.

Chamkonak, Black Sea coast of Turkey

The sun was rising over my tent when I got back.

Chamkonak, Black Sea coast of Turkey

I cooked up some rice and raisin goop, gobbled it down, and was exhausted. I was still very much under the weather. My sinuses were still threatening to rupture at any moment.

I dozed until noon, until I was woken by two fishing boats sorting something out in the small cove.

Chamkonak, Black Sea coast of Turkey

This scene suddenly motivated me to do a spot of fishing myself. I fashioned a hook out of the stainless wire I have, attached this to my aluminium pole with some polyester thread, and made a sinker out of a small sandstone stone.

Handmade hook and sinker (Chamkonak, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

I used some shellfish as bait, and waited.

I tried to catch a fish in Chamkonak, Black Sea coast of Turkey

No luck after 20 minutes, and I was hungry. Cooked up some wheat with garlic soup for lunch.

Chamkonak, Black Sea coast of Turkey

After all this activity I was zonked. Took some more Panadol and spent the rest of the avo dozing in the tent. This song still in my head. Perfect.

Chamkonak, Black Sea coast of Turkey

Day 200 – Guntur Holiday Village to a spot of paradise (Chamkonak Village)

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 46.17km
Average speed / 平均速度: 11.9km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 3h 51mm
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 3344.8km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +575m
Descent / 下り: -550m

I am under the weather.

I have the usual. Nasal headache and sore throat.

Great roads today though. I took some small side roads to what I thought was going to be Kefken Village. On the way I found a new water pipeline under construction. I was allowed to take photos.

Water pipeline near Karasu, Black Sea caost of Turkey)

Water pipeline near Karasu, Black Sea caost of Turkey)

In the bottom photo, they are temporarily installing an automated welding jig that does the required four welds to join the pipe pieces. The four welds take one hour to complete. Fully auto. Cool man.

I got lost. I was tired, sick, and just wanted to curl up in my tent. I was well and truely in the sticks.

In the sticks (near Chamkonak, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

I did the only thing that made sense. I headed for The Sea. And I found the most fabulously restful and relaxing spot on Earth. Chamkonak.

It fulfilled all my requirements. No people. A view of the sea from my tent. Grass to pitch the tent on. Fresh water nearby. Beautiful sunny day.

Chamkonak, Black Sea coast of Turkey

The sea was a far cry from the hammering waves of a week ago in Inebolu.

Chamkonak, Black Sea coast of Turkey

I did just what I wanted to do. I took two Panadols to dull the pain of my sinuses, and curled up in my tent, with the gentle lapping of the waves in my ears, and a gentle warm breeze wafting through the tent. I recalled this song –

Just perfect.

Oh, and today is day 200 of the journey. According to my original plan, I was going to be in England today. Oh well. I would much rather be right here.

Day 199 – Alapli to Guntur Holiday Village

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 93.27km
Average speed / 平均速度: 13.6km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 6h 49m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 3298.0km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +680m
Descent / 下り: -675m

Ugh. Sore throat this morning. Someone is dragging barbed wire down my throaaaaaat…

Generally feeling under the weather all day today. I almost forgot all about my throat and general non well being when a police car pulled up in front of me, the cops jump out, shake my hand heartily, and thrust me a newspaper, with an article about me in it.

I got in the Zonguldak Paper (Zonguldak, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

Awaiting translation from someone who is in the know.

The day was mostly flat, following the coast.

Beach near Alapli, Black Sea coast of Turkey

Excitement at lunchtime however. I had myself in a nice little titch. The cafe I pulled up to looked closed. I asked a person nearby who looked like he was in the know, and he said the cafe was closed. Not so good. The next town was about 15kms away, and it was already 2pm.

I was just about to pull away, when a short bald guy with eyes really close together trotted out of the cafe. ‘Cafe’s open! Welcome!’ They had beef patties or chicken on the menu. I chose the beef patties.

They were over cooked, served with a few slices of cucumber, and some old bread.

I ate the patties, and cucumber, but left the bread. All washed down with 500ml of bottled water.

I stood and asked the short bald guy with eyes really close together how much I owed.

’9YTL (NZ$9, US$7)’ he indicated with nine stubby fingers. For the readers’ reference, I paid 5YTL for fresh beef patties on a bed of soft rice, a large fresh salad, and fresh bread, the day before.

‘Ah, no. I don’t think so, mate. Try again. how much do I owe?’ I said calmly.

’9YTL. Seven for the patties, two for the water’ the short bald guy with eyes really close together said.

I almost laughed. Now I knew he was trying to rip me off.

’2YTL for 500ml of water?!’ I asked incredulously.

I raised my voice.

‘I am a tourist! I have lots of money, do I?!’ I shouted, still smiling at the madness of it all. I couldn’t believe this guy was ripping me off.

‘OK, OK, 5YTL’ he said.

I showed him a 20YTL note. The short bald guy with eyes really close together halted, as if to say, ‘we don’t have change’.

The owner looking guy, hearing the raucous, walked over and asked how much change I had. I showed him the 1.90YTL in coins I had, and said that that would do. I handed him the change, and headed out of the door, shaking my head.

So I ended up only paying 1.90YTL for lunch.

I fumed for 20 minutes or so as I pedalled. I considered biking back and giving the short bald guy with eyes really close together a bit more of my mind. The cheek of it all.

After lunch highlights were the extra safe (not) powerline technicians with no harnesses:

The guys on the powerpole have no safetly line (safe work place near Akcakoca, Black Sea caost of Turkey)

Bees with red bulbous legs:

Bee with crazy red legs (near Kuyumculu, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

And something I have seen often here on the side of the road in Turkey. Bottles full of what I assume is urine. I can only assume that long haul truckers pee into the bottles while they drive and then throw them out? At least that’s what I’ve convinced myself of.

Bottle full of urine (near Akcakoca, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

Towards the end of the day, I came upon Guntur Holiday Village. Deserted. Only the security guys. They waved me through the gates, and I headed straight for the deserted beach. Massive, open, calm, windswept. Perfect.

Deserted beach (Guntur Holiday Village, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

Deserted beach (Guntur Holiday Village, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

Day 198 – From Karaman to Alapli

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 86.36km
Average speed / 平均速度: 11.8km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 7h 16m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 3204.6km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +1160m
Descent / 下り: -1380m

I played with the ‘ferocious’ guard dog for 30 minutes before heading off.

It was a cold start to the day. A chilly -9 degrees celcius. Karaman is a hill range over from the coast, and it is amazing how different the climate is here even though it is not very far from the coast. The cold froze the moisture in my brake and gear cables, resulting in only one gear (the climbing one), and front braking only. This was fine for climbing up the hill in the morning, but going down was tough work. Had to take it really easy. Braking with only your front brake at high speeds is not recommended.

Zonguldak is a big, dirty city. Zoomed through. A long, long, long uphill followed. I was hoping to be up and over it by lunchtime, but I got to the top at 2pm. I had a late lunch at the only cafe at the top of the pass (700m).

The day ended with a 2 hour dash along the flat coast on a narrow road with a lot of traffic. Ugh. Eregli had some impressive ship building yards tho.

Ship building (Alapli Town, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

Camped on a newly built marina, and watched the sun drop into the Black Sea.

Sunset over the marina (Alapli Town, Black Sea coast of Turkey)

Day 197 – From Amasra to Karaman

Today’s distance / 今日の走行距離: 92.82km
Average speed / 平均速度: 12.8km/h
Time on bike / 走行時間: 7h 13m
Total distance to date / 今日までの積算距離: 3119.0km (plus 4200km)
Ascent / 上り: +780m
Descent / 下り: -670m

A generally overall blase day, really. Some cool ancient Roman rock carvings in the side of a cliff were fairly jolly awesome though.

Bird's Rock Roman Road Monument near Amasra, Turkey

BIRD ROCK ROAD MONUMENT – The Bird Rock Road Monument was created between 41-54 AD by order of Gaius Julius Aguilla. At the time when Tiberius Germanicus Claudius was Rome’s Emperor, Aguilla was the commander of the building army in the east provinces. After his commandership, he was appointed as governor of Bithnyia – Pontius for the rest of his life. The Bird’s Rock is a resting place and a road monument. It was created in arched niche by using the carving method. The monument shows a human form wearing a toga and on the pillar to the right of the niche, there is a motif of an eagle. The eagle represents the boundless power of the legionnaires. The Road Monument which has two inscriptions is the only one created in Antolia.
- from the info sign

The most exciting things happened towards the end of the day.

I was minding my own business, pedaling along, when a white station wagon came screaming to a halt in front of me. Three guys jump out wielding cameras.

Reporters getting a scoop near Zonguldak, Black Sea caost of Turkey

I gather that they are from a press agency in Zonguldak, and somehow they found out about me cycling through the area. I give them the usual low down on what I am doing, they get some footage and photos, and I am on my way again. No doubt I will be getting some more tooting than usual in the days to come…

I ended the day by pitching my tent in a closed council picnic area. The gate said ‘Warning, Guard Dog’. I don’t think so. The nice old pooch would rather lick you to death than bite. Great dog.

'Vicious' guard dog at Council picnic spot (Karaman Town Picnic area, Turkey)

Some local kids head the racket of the dog whining at me to come and play, so the kids came over to investigate. After it was ascertained that I was a foreigner on a bicycle, they rushed off and came back with soup and bread for me. Cheers guys!