John Clark’s Review – Istanbul to Sinop
We have made it to the Black Sea once more! After a long break in Istanbul we have ridden for eight straight days covering 696 kilometres arriving in the beautiful town of Sinop. We saw Tim off as he rode on to Ankara to sort out his Iranian visa and last we heard he is still alive!
Passing through Turkey’s regional towns has been incredible. The people here have been so generous to us and are so friendly and excited about the ride. However we have had some bad times over the past week or so. Our bikes are running worse after a dodgy service! We were literally run out of a town in the dark! We suffered from dehydration on a mountain climb! And got served up entrails for dinner and charged for a porterhouse steak!
Our rest days in Sinop have been ideal. We haven’t been out drinking until late as was the case during rest days in Romania and Bulgaria. Instead we have been swimming, eating well and preparing ourselves for what could be the hardest section of the Turkish leg. We will soon encounter mountain passes as high as 2500m and temperatures will continue to rise as we approach Iran.
A little less to read this time! Enjoy.
Day 63 Day off in Istanbul, Turkey
After missing the trip a day earlier, Daniel and Tim paid an extra 30 Euros each and managed to join a day tour down to Gallipoli.
With those two gone and my parents keen to explore the Grand Bazaar, Aaron and I trekked out to Kanyon Shopping Mall where Istanbul’s only Apple shop was situated, so we could drop off our iPods to be repaired. Unfortunately after the two hour journey to get there we found out that the store wasn’t official so our warranties meant nothing! Lucky Aaron has two iPods but I will now go without tunes at least until Tehran!
Aaron and I then met up with my parents in Taksim Square and had a quick lunch before travelling down to the Galata Tower on board a vintage tram. The 70m tall tower, which has been used for a diverse range of purposes – battle, fire lookout, prison and now a tourist lookout and nightclub – offered incredible 360 degree views of the monster city which assisted in planning our route down to the Spice Market where we sampled different dried fruits and Turkish delight.
In the evening Aaron, Mum, Dad and I went out for dinner and then later on Aaron and I met up with Daniel and Tim for a few beers in the Sultanamet district.
Day 64 Day off in Istanbul, Turkey
After another fantastic breakfast at the Piya Hostel we headed round to my parents hotel to say our goodbyes. It was strange to think the next time I’ll be seeing them was in Melbourne and we all enjoyed discussing and guessing how our arrival back home will go down.
We waved them off and then strolled down to the bike shop to collect our freshly serviced bikes. Daniel and I thought we’d take them for a spin straight away and headed to the Taksim Square area to try and recover his camera that he lost in a pub two nights earlier. After retracing his steps we luckily – despite him being ejected from this particular establishment – walked past a pub where the waiter called him over – by name – and returned his camera.
With over three hundred photos on the SD card we were stoked to have the camera back and after looking at our most recent album at www.facebook.com/ride2rescue you’ll know why! After a celebratory beer we headed home however just after riding through the spice market area the camera fell out of Daniel’s pocket and smashed on to the ground leaving it dysfunctional.
Despite the upset of the broken camera, it was Saturday night and we were all pumped for a night out in Istanbul. We started at our regular spot in Sultanamet and after Daniel and I met two Danish girls playing Uno it was obvious we were never going to leave. After a quick tutorial of their version of the rules – similar to the French rules – we played for hours – I won – and it didn’t end up being such a crazy Saturday night after all. We made a plan to meet up with our new Danish friends, Sara and Ayla for a bike ride in the morning. Ayla who could speak Turkish was keen to show us some local hangouts away from the tourist scene.
Day 65 Day off in Istanbul, Turkey
Daniel and I met up with Sara and Ayla to form a peleton that cycled across the Golden Horn water way to the Istanbul suburb of Galata. We stopped here at a small café for a quick hand of Uno and a milkshake before moving on to an incredible café that was so tucked away you could stand at its entrance on street level and not have a clue it existed. After entering and walking down a winding passage way lit by candle light you arrive in a garden full of lemon trees with tables scattered amongst them. The smell of citrus and turtles that crawled around on the ground gave this place a very unique feel and it was a real treat to have visited it.
Despite polishing off my second milkshake for the day hunger was setting in so Ayla led us to Emonimu which is an area on the banks of the Golden Horn where all the locals go for fish sandwiches. The stalls run quite an operation with the preparation area on board a ship that is constantly rocking on the wakes of passing ships. The sandwich itself was delicious. The chef actually places a whole grilled fish into the bun and then in one quick, smooth action whips out the backbone and hands it over to you.
The bike tour came to an end and we met back up with Tim who was enjoying a beer with an Australian couple we had met, Corey and Aliza – who will now host us when we pass through the Sunshine Coast of Queensland – and Ihmet from Canada but has family in Shiraz, Iran. Luckily he will be in Shiraz when we are planning on passing through so we have arranged to catch up.
Day 66 Day off in Istanbul, Turkey
Our last day off in Istanbul. We never planned on staying so long however it was completely out of hands due to the Iran public holiday and visa processing time. Daniel and I collected the passports problem free, except that Tim’s hasn’t been approved in time so he will have to visit the consulate in Ankara. We then nestled in at a café and learnt how to play Tavla (Backgammon) before heading back down to the water for another fish sandwich. On our return to the ‘Backpacker’ street in Sultanamet we felt like celebrities as waiters, restaurant managers and other tourists we had met during our week in Istanbul stopped us in our paths to say hello and wish us good luck on our journey.
We all decided on an early night so we could be fresh before heading into Asia.
Day 66 Istanbul, Turkey to Golcuk, Turkey – Ferry + 44km
We had hoped to leave our hostel by 9am however due to the dodgy mechanic who serviced our bikes I was left with the following repairs to make;
My chain wasn’t joined properly and my gears were slipping
Tim had a puncture (the day earlier) and his rear brake was rubbing
Aaron’s gears were screwed and his chain wasn’t joined correctly
Daniel’s gear were screwed as well and the new tyres the mechanic fitted we better suited for a 4×4!
However as we quote often ‘Nothing stops Ride2Rescue’ (except a bad bike service) we were on the road down to the ferry port where we caught a ferry to Yolava. We did consider riding through Istanbul however we were already behind schedule and we would have had to cross a bridge similar to the Westgate Bridge in Melbourne, so we opted to take the quicker and safer option.
From Yolava we rode 44km to Golcuk where we turned into a human magnet to every child within 15kms. We were swamped! Thankfully our waiter called his friend Emirkan – nicknamed ‘Alien’ – who could translate for us. The father of two of the children, Baris, shouted us a beer each and then led us to a very scenic swimming area where we tried to relax amongst the posse of children that had expanded to about 40. The children were great, one of them gave us some fruit, some played us in football and the rest were content in just staring at such strange looking people. I asked Alien if many tourists passed through and he laughed and told me that two years ago an Italian couple passed through but that was about it.
After deciding we would never get to sleep if we camped anywhere in town, Alien offered us his Grandmother’s house which was vacant. We took up his offer and made ourselves comfortable. After about an hour there was a group of teenagers outside the house trying to break down the door to get in! We weren’t sure of what to do and to avoid confrontation we decided to call Alien and let him know what was happening. He came running to the house and after explaining what they had said and did he recommended that we should leave right away and that it wasn’t safe to stay. We took his word, packed up our bikes and after a quick good bye to Alien we rode out of town in the dark! Thankfully after 5kms we came across a small restaurant with a big garden and the owner allowed us to camp for free.
That night in bed we laughed over what a strange experience we had just had and also worried slightly for Alien and what might of happened to him that evening…
Day Golcuk, Turkey to Adapasari, Turkey – 79km
Conveniently from our camp site we were on the D100 in seconds and after Daniel added two more punctures to his tally – now on 12 for the trip – we cruised into the town of Adapasari which is the first town away from the sea until we reach Sinop.
Upon our arrival into Adapasari we came across a group of restaurants that sat amongst loads of trees and the cool environment was ideal for us as we were keen to escape the 37 degree heat.
If Germans are known for being efficiency the Turks should be known for their generosity. During the day we had experienced a taste of Turkish generosity when a man grabbed Daniel’s punctured wheel and had it repaired for him and then moments later we were invited to sit with the workers at a service station for a glass of Chai!
This generosity continued. While at the restaurant amongst the shade I asked a lady who was on a laptop if there was Wifi, she replied no, but then moments later she placed her laptop in front of me with her ‘Dongle’ plugged in. Then while Aaron and I went for a walk to the sehir merkezi (town centre) Daniel asked the same lady for directions to a bike shop and instead of directions she drove Daniel and Tim around town for an hour to four different bike shops until they had purchased everything they needed.
After the temperature had dropped we hit the road again and stopped at a service station/restaurant where we ate and camped (next to a massive dog).
Day 69 Adapasari, Turkey to Duzce, Turkey – 74km
After we all had a terrible night sleep due to the barking from the horse stuck in a dog’s body we hit the road. With tired eyes and empty stomachs it wasn’t until we hit the town of Hendek after 22km that we stopped for breakfast.
Today’s first act of generosity came from a young butcher who provided us with a bottle of soft drink as we sat out the front of BIM Hypermarket (Supermarket) enjoying tomato and cheese sandwiches.
We then continued into a fairly major town of Duzce where we panned to stop for lunch and also for Tim to check emails regarding the progress of his Iranian visa. Instead we were stopped by a local journalist who demanded we follow him. He led us to the President of the local cycling club who bought us lunch and arranged a place for us to eat dinner and camp. After lunch we jumped on the internet and made the plan to meet him at 4pm where we left our bikes so he could direct us to the camping site. Then the most surprising situation occurred. We arrived at the bikes at 4pm to be greeted by two TV camera crews with reporters and three photographers. No body spoke English so the president talked for us after we had explained our ride to him via Google Translate.
After all the excitement calmed down we followed a blue car to the camping ground which just happened to be on the summit of a small mountain, which was a gruelling way to finish the day. While at the camp site we enjoyed a great BBQ dinner and met Tugba, a member of the cycling club who spoke a little bit of English. She brought us some nuts, fruit and coke and also invited us to her parents house in the morning for breakfast.
Tugba left to go home and we were all preparing to go to bed before being called over to a table of Turkish men, all aged around 65, to sample some of their food and drink, particularly Raki, which is a strong alcoholic drink with an aniseed flavour. The worst part was trying to escape, every time you finished a glass they poured you another or if you tried to just leave they would question why you were leaving, however eventually we got away and all slept very well.
Day 70 Duzce, Turkey to Yenicala, Turkey – 94km
We arrived at Tugba’s house to an incredible array of food. There was boreks – which delighted Aaron and I – bread, olives, tomatoes, cucumber, potatoes, home made jams and more. It was delicious and we all ate way too much. We met Tugba’s brother too, he works in Kazakhstan and as our route may change to go north around Pakistan and India he invited us to visit him! After a family photo and with full stomachs and one extra rider – Tugba decided to join us – we hit the road again.
After 15km Tugba turned back towards home and we pressed on to tackle a huge mountain climb before arriving into Bolu for a rest and a feed. Daniel worked out an easy way to tackle hills and hung onto a passing cement truck – cheating or smart? We ended up staying in town for four hours and after checking Facebook I found out from a guy I had met in Golcuk that we could have taken a tunnel through the mountain instead – we all laughed our heads off.
With exhausted legs we set our sights on reaching Lake Yenicala where we hoped to swim and camp nearby. Instead, once we arrived we were so hungry we just stopped at another service station/ restaurant combo and put our feet up. We also camped here after a massive discussion about how we should go about avoiding the border crossing of Iran and Pakistan and also how to avoid travelling through the whole southern and west parts of Pakistan which we have been informed by the Australian Federal Police are too dangerous to travel through.
It came down to two options;
1. Ride through to southern Iran and catch a ferry to Dubai and then fly to Islamabad where its apparently safe and where we have contacts organising a function for us. We would then continue through India, Nepal and Tibet as planned.
2. After sorting out visas in Tehran, Iran, head north to Azerbaijan and take a ferry across to Kazakhstan and the ride through to China and then continue through China to Vietnam.
There are strong arguments for both options and currently Daniel and Tim are leaning towards option 1 and Aaron and I leaning towards option 2 purely because we don’t want to fly and want to ride the whole way. The decision has to be made by Sinop so stay tuned! We may even split up for a while!
Day 71 Yenicala, Turkey to Kalabuk, Turkey – 119km
Aaron served up bread and cheese for breakfast and then we headed towards the town of Garede where we stopped for chai next to the town’s busy market. Tim offered to pay for the chai and almost gave a beggar 10TL thinking he was a waiter, thankfully another customer stepped in and straightened things out. We then said our goodbyes to Tim as he headed south east to the capital, Ankara, where he will sort out his Iranian visa and then most likely catch a bus to meet up with us in Samsun.
Aaron, Daniel and I headed north east aiming for the town of Kalabuk. To our delight we enjoyed a 40km descent – we just couldn’t believe it as the road just kept going down – however the road surface was very rough and ripped my tyre leading to two punctures.
I repaired the hole in the tyre using masking tape and thankfully it did the job and we reached Kalabuk and escaped the heat in the town’s air conditioned shopping centre. After two and half hours and a few Big Macs we headed back outside and visited the local bike shop where I purchased a new tyre. While it was being repaired we were served chai and one man – through sign language – suggested what route we should take to Sinop.
We decided to ride 20km out of town to get a head start on tomorrow and found a great restaurant that let us camp for free. On the way in to the restaurant a lady asked where I was from and gave me a slice of home made carrot cake and another family gave Daniel loads of fruit – we just love the Turkish generosity.
Day 72 Kalabuk to Kastamonu – 126km
After descending 40km the day before we all knew it wouldn’t be long until we were making our way back up and this came through a 20km mountain pass that took us from an altitude of 240m to 1500m – easily the toughest climb to date. Daniel, again was assisted up the mountain, this time with the aid of a road work vehicle. As he was being pulled up the hill the workers on board the truck were offering him water.
I arrived in Kastamonu ahead of Aaron and found Daniel who had been there for ages laying under a tree. I bought a heap of fruit and nuts and joined him until Aaron arrived. We were all exhausted and had a siesta in the shade before riding a further 25km out of town where we found a restaurant that served up entrails and bread. We were shattered as we felt after a day like that we deserved a better meal. We left the restaurant disappointed with the meal and the fact we were completely ripped off by the owner and found a camping spot at yet another service station 1km down the road.
Day 73 Kastmonu, Turkey to Sinop, Turkey – 160km
We hit the road aiming to ride the 79km to the D785 turn off knowing that any further than that would be a bonus. We had scheduled two days to reach Sinop.
After a nice breakfast 10km into the day we were cruising nicely through arid, hilly terrain that would have suited a western movie well. We comfortably made it to the turn-off after 80km and it was timely as temperatures had begun to soar around 38 degrees.
Our plan was to now stop at the first place we could eat and camp. 10km went by, then 15km but there was nothing, just dry barren land – not to mention we had turned onto a mountain! With fresh – and to be fair stronger – legs Daniel flew ahead, eventually I lost sight of him and behind me I had no vision of Aaron. I had run out of water, the temperature now at 40 degrees. At every bend in the climb I was praying for a shop, a service station or just a tap – even the river that ran next to the road had run dry. My odometer showed 105km, it had been 25km uphill, I could hardly swallow as my mouth was so dry, my head was pounding too.
Somehow – I can’t quite remember – I lost my balance and fell off my bike onto the tarmac. I was wrecked, the hill and the heat – and no water – had beaten me. I just laid there for two minutes, too exhausted to move and trying to work out how I managed to crash – up hill! Strangely enough a car drove past and didn’t stop, but when I heard another engine chugging its way up the 8% ascent I gingerly stood up, grabbed my empty drink bottle from its holder and flagged the car down. Thankfully it stopped, they knew instantly I needed water and simply gestured towards the roadside where there was a tap. I couldn’t believe it. I laughed and so did they. I made my way over to the tap which ran continuously from a natural spring and saturated myself in water. I decided to lay there until Aaron arrived.
It was a close call, I was obviously in a bad way however it was a timely reminder to plan ahead a little more as it will definitely get tougher than that. All I was thinking about while taking on the hill dehydrated was Californian Phil telling us “in Turkey there’s water everywhere”.
Aaron and I rested for about 25 minutes, Aaron had also ran out of water and was struggling due to dehydration. We pressed on together and finally reached the 1110m summit where there was a newly built 2km tunnel that was refreshing to ride through out of the sunshine. Shortly after the tunnel we came across a restaurant and enjoyed stewed beef, salad and loads of bread. From here it was literally down hill to the final turn off to Sinop.
We came across Daniel who was waiting at a service station after enjoying a nutritious lunch of two chocolate bars and two packs of Negros (an Oreo type biscuit). As three we rode together towards Sinop stopping at a service station only 2km from town so Aaron could call his contact in town – his Uncle’s Sister’s Husband’s Cousin! Thanks to google translate and after Aaron downed four cans of coke, Onde came and met us and showed us to an apartment we could rent for three days. Recognising we were exhausted Onde organised some dinner for us as we took turns having showers – Aaron’s first shower since leaving Istanbul.
Day 74 – Day off in Sinop, Turkey
Sinop is a very beautiful beach side town and we made the most of it and relaxed today. Aaron and I strolled down to the harbour where we put our feet up, played hours of Tavla, drank copious amounts of chai and swam occasionally.
In the evening we met up with Onde, Allpay and another one of there friends. Together we all went for chai and while sitting there Onde’s wife and daughter joined us. As seven we all went out for dinner and then had a walk around the harbour and ‘lover’s street’, both of which were packed with families.
Allpay, pronounced I’ll pay, could speak English after working in the US Navy and translated for us all night. His name had originally confused us when we were on the phone to him trying to organise accommodation and left us under the impression that he wanted to pay! He also loved Afroboy’s ‘Because I got high’ and Aaron and him kept reciting the lyrics to one another.
We said goodbye and then Aaron, Daniel and I went out for a few beers and mingled with some locals.
Day 75 – Day off in Sinop, Turkey
Not much to write about today! The three of us sat at the harbour, played Tavla for about 5 hours, drank loads of chai again and then made our way back to the apartment to prepare for an evening football game against Onde and Allpay. Unfortunately they didn’t show up! Later we heard from Allpay and we learnt that a friend of theirs had sadly passed away. Instead we walked down to a Playstation bar and Daniel and I played Fifa. I won.
Day 76 Day off in Sinop, Turkey
Our last day off in Sinop. An opportunity to catch up on boring things! We all had washing to do, emails to read and updates to make to Facebook and the website.
We did manage, of course, a few games of Tavla and a few glasses of Chai.
In the evening we met up with Allpay and Onde who drove us to another area on the coast where we had dinner and a few drinks before being dropped off back at the apartment to prepare for the ride tomorrow.
Our aim from here is to head along the coast for about one week before heading in land towards the border.
Aaron and I have decided to join Daniel and Tim and will now ride through Iran to take a ferry across to Dubai and then a flight to Islamabad. Strangely enough, even if we had ridden north from Tehran through Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan we would have still ridden the same distance as Tim and Daniel! So despite the fact we are flying, which still disappoints me, we aren’t riding any less kilometres, we’re still riding across the ‘roof of the world’ and visiting all our intended Child Rescue projects. It is a shame to be flying but its the most sensible option, none of us are so keen on getting kidnapped!