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Archive for August, 2011

Turkey, Part 2:Samsun to Istanbul

August 27, 2011 By: abi Category: News

Which way to go? A big decision was to be made before leaving Samsun about which route to take to Istanbul. There was the coastal road which was apparently horrendously steep, dangerous and in bad condition but with amazing views. And on the other hand, there was the route through the mountains on a fairly new highway. After much deliberation I opted for the mountainous highway due to time restrictions, thinking it would be slightly faster.

This was it, I was on the highway to Istanbul via the turn-off for Ankara!

Mountain Mosques

 

 

The lightest snack food ever!

Still riding really long days!

It's so windy! I've been battling a head wind on and off since Kazakhstan.

So from sea level to 4500 feet and back down to sea level again with this awesome descent of 4000 feet in 10 kilometres!

I met a guy on the side of the road who invited me to camp on his ranch. It was a perfect place to relax after the windy mountainous journey from Samsun.

So this marks the end of the inland road, the next challenge is to navigate myself into Istanbul and out the other side.

And back to the sea, the Marmara this time.

Up at 5am and out the door to find the coastal road I had thoroughly researched the night before. It turned out to be a waterfront cycle path which led me all the way into the heart of Istanbul. This meandering route passed through shore-front bars, tea gardens, yacht clubs, tiny lively streets and organic markets. The ferry crossing to get me to the Galata tower was effortless even with a big bike and Friday night rush hour traffic. I then pushed my bike up near vertical winding streets to find myself a cold beer followed by a welcoming hostel. I can’t believe I almost bypassed this city which has turned out to be the most alluring of the trip.

On the ferry crossing the Bosphorous Strait. Very excited to be here!

A look back at Turkey, Part 1: Sarpi to Samsun

August 27, 2011 By: abi Category: News

It was the easiest border crossing yet. 20 dollars buys you a pretty wee sticker for your passport and then through you go. They are ever so slightly more thorough in Asia!

A daunting task ahead, it doesn't help that I know it will be hot and hilly too.

Looking back into Georgia

Mountains.....

...Mosques....

and tea plantations to the left....

The Black Sea to the right...

Dream road

I had to completely re-pack my bags to get ready for the steep climbs. This is what the hotel looked like in that process!

my bike, lighter than it's ever been after chucking loads of stuff out and sending a few things home.

It rained for a few days.

making coffee on the windowsill of a wee Pensione

camping 20 metres from the Black Sea

got the tent up just in time for sunset

Lovely cycling the next day, right along the coast on good roads with only a slight head wind and stunning scenery.

Cycling right up until sunset again. There is no way of finding food until after sunset (because of Ramadan) so there was no point to stop!

The day we found food!!

Here I am waiting patiently for a meal, yes a meal, during the day time. Ramadan is a difficult time to cycle in Turkey as nothing is open unless you beg someone and then sit hidden away.

Camping on the beach again.

Follow him, he's got a cabbage!

Fixing a puncture in downtown Samsun

tempted to get the boat to Istanbul, haha!

Samsun Harbour

 

The city limits campsite next to a wakeboarding park

It's just not camping without my Mum's ratatouille!

entertainment for the day off the bikes!

Leaving the campsite and leaving the Black Sea.

 

4 months, 8 countries, 6238km cycled and over 10,000km traveled

August 10, 2011 By: abi Category: News

A reflection on being 2/3rds of the way home!

Loveliest campsite:
Ureki, Georgia. After cycling 161km I found a grassy area right next to the black sand beach on the coast of the Black Sea. In the morning the family who were camping nearby brought Jaye and I coffee after a swim in the sea. Bliss after being landlocked for 4 months.

The view from the loveliest campsite

Number one country to return to: So far it is  Kazakhstan. After spending 5 days in Almaty waiting for a visa, I really want to visit Astana, the capital.

Most challenging circumstance: China. Being lost at 13,000 feet when Jaye’s brakes failed on a 34km gravel downhill in the pouring rain late at night. We were both freezing cold and had no idea where the next town was as my map was crap. The sun went down and we ended up pushing our bikes in the pitch black and then wrestling with the undergrowth in torch light to put up the tent a few metres from the road. We were both suffering from altitude sickness and extreme exhaustion but had no food to eat and very little water. The sounds of the forest and my imagination kept me awake most of the night, scared, tired and nauseous.
Tastiest local food discovery: Beer cheese in Kazakhstan. Stringy, smoked cheese which is pan fried and then you squeeze lemon over it and eat it with a cold local beer.
Best country for cycling: Georgia, apart from the head-winds and the drivers! This is a country that I would highly recommend to cycle tourers for its incredible hospitality, good roads, diverse scenery and cheap wine.

Good roads and lovely scenery

Worst country for cycling: China due to the bad roads, terrible pollution and unfriendly drivers.


One thing you wish you had in your panniers: Prescription sunglasses, chamois cream, electrolytes and a hip flask!
One thing you wish you had left behind: I could probably live without my Thermarest camping chair!
Worst border crossing experience: China to Kazakhstan. It was late in the evening and I had already cycled over 100 kilometres and there were big queues at the border. The police ushered us through narrow gates and ordered us to remove all bags with haste. Then, they announced that my bike and me had to board a bus, yes a bus! There were about 500 people waiting for buses and I couldn’t communicate with anybody and none of the police wanted to help. Finally after 2 hours a couple of men helped to shove the bike into the coach and after 10 minutes I was in Kazakhstan.

Most memorable moment so far: It was one day in China and I had been climbing almost solidly for 3 days, I had been sick for 6 days prior to this day and was just generally totally knackered. I could tell I was reaching the top of the pass and as I got closer to the tree line at 3000 metres, I heard such a loud noise. As I turned into the last switchback all I could see around me was bright, beautiful Tibetan prayer flags, just like the ones I used to have in my bedroom(!) The wind picked up and the sound of the flags in the trees was deafening. I felt so alone and so small but so invigorated, I had never imagined I would be on a mountain like this, in a scene straight out of a photo in a coffee-table book.

Georgia photos

August 09, 2011 By: abi Category: News

Azerbaijan

August 03, 2011 By: abi Category: News

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