– The adventures of a solo round the world cyclist –

Day 961 (Turkey Day 40)

It rained most of the night and water continued to fall through most of the day. After a delicious breakfast provided by the hotel, I did some handwashing before packing my waterproof bag and donning my waterproof pants and jacket. On the way to the minibus stand I grabbed some food. On discovering that there wouldn’t be a bus for an hour and twenty minutes, I walked around the city, taking any small street that took my fancy. I stumbled across the City Museum and was pleased to be handed a special book prepared for those who can’t read any of the Turkish display signs. I read about the history of Canakkale and was reacquainted with the legends surrounding the city of Troy. The bus ride to this ancient site was brief and I soon found myself walking past a replica of the famous wooden Trojan horse and looking at what is probably the oldest structures made by man that I have ever seen. A sign alerted me to the fact that audio-guides were available so I hurried back to the site’s entrance and collected one for 10l ($AU3.30). I’m glad I did as I learned a lot about the ancient ruins and the stories surrounding them.

I had been told that the minibus heading back into Canakkale was at 5.30pm. When I returned my audio-guide at 3.15pm, I was told that I’d just missed a 3pm bus back. Thus I had over two hours to kill. I found a park bench under cover from the rain and dozed. Back in Canakkale, as I walked back to my hotel, I passed a locksmith shop, my attention being captured by a wall full of keys. I thought I should show them my broken padlock in the hope they knew how I could remove it from my bike chain. I collected the materials from the hotel, prepared a screenshot on my phone that asked them in Turkish if they could help me, then visited the shop. I didn’t need my screenshot as sign language sufficed. To my bewilderment, the man working there inserted the key and barrel and a few loose parts into the padlock and somehow managed to force it open. Magic! Not only this, but they offered me a brand new, very solid-looking padlock to replace my broken one. In the space of one minute my lock problem was completely solved. I dumped the stuff back at the hotel and then headed out for my next task: dinner. It was an easy decision to return to the pide café I visited last night, where I had another delicious meal.

The Trojan Horse

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 26,589km
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Day 960 (Turkey Day 39)

After riding further than expected yesterday, why not ride just as far today and make it all the way to Canakkale. Fast forward 143km and I arrived.

Last night was fine. I got used to the creepy noises after a while and had a fairly good sleep. I got up before the sun and hit the road just as the day’s early warmth burned away the last of the mist. The day passed in a series of climbs and descents. I rode 64km before stopping for lunch, then 65km before having a toilet break and treating myself to a chocolate bar and a coke. You know you have been in a country a while when you’ve found your favourite Turkish chocolate bar. Mine is Metro, which is like a Mars Bar.

I then had just 12km to ride before entering the city, and another couple to push through while I hunted for a place to stay. I enquired at a few places to get a sense of the prices before settling for a hotel with a good deal. I would have stayed at the Anzac House Hostel except for some reason they refused to house my bicycle. At my chosen place, I had a very pleasant interaction with the owner and he helped me when my bike lock broke. When I pulled my bike lock out of my bag I got a shock when the key barrel part of it broke away. It is a decent Abus lock, so very disappointing. The worst part is that the padlock is still holding the two ends of my Kryptonite bike chain together and with no functional key barrel, I have no way of getting it undone. As a temporary measure, the hotel owner lent me a padlock and I doubled up the bike chain to get it around a pole. I am going to have to find someone with a pretty heavy duty angle grinder that can cut through the padlock and release my chain.

It was overcast all day and as I was out searching for dinner it started raining and hasn’t stopped since. Apparently it’s going to rain for the next few days. It’s good timing really as I don’t expect to be moving too far on the bike for a few days. Tomorrow I want to check out the ancient city of Troy and the next day I will be catching the ferry over to Eceabat and settling in there before exploring the ANZAC attractions.

Canakkale

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 143.86km
Average cycling speed 21.5kph
Total distance ridden 26,589km
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Day 959 (Turkey Day 38)

A massive hotel breakfast fuelled a very efficient ride through fairly bland surroundings as I made my way west along the south side of the Sea of Marmara. I rode in two sections divided by a lunch break, the first being 70km and the second being 65km. I pulled up several kilometres short of my target distance as I spotted what might form the perfect home for the night. I’d hardly seen any good options for camping all day, so it was pretty fortuitous that at the end of my riding day I spied what appeared to be a derelict farmhouse. Derelict it was. The small building has two rooms with concrete floors, crumbling walls and roof with only a few small holes in it. There is no glass in the windows so the cold wind passes through. I set up my tent in the corner of one of the rooms, protected from the crosswind and under an intact part of the roof. The skies have been threatening rain all day, so it’s nice to be protected from possible rain. At the moment I’m acquainting myself with the creepy noises around me so I can recognise any that don’t fit in and warn me of anything untoward.

A place to call home

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 135.86km
Average cycling speed 23.5kph
Total distance ridden 26,445km
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Day 958 (Turkey Day 37)

Finally, I am confident I have solved the ongoing problem I have been having with my rear tyre (a slow leak). I found two tiny punctures in the tube, one of which still had a piece of metal in it. As well as patching these up, I studied my tyre intensely for about half an hour, removing a surprising number of tiny thorns. I thought I’d removed them all the other day but I was on the road at the time and obviously not paying enough attention to spot them all. I now think I have removed them all. Tomorrow I’m back on the bike and spending 2-3 days riding into that part of Turkey famous for Troy and ANZAC legends.

From a few days ago

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 26,309km
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Day 957 (Turkey Day 36)

What joy a good breakfast brings when it’s included in the price of your hotel. The breakfast at Cesmeli is buffet style with great variety. Filling my face with an astonishing amount of breakfast food was as thrilling as my day got, and it was enjoyable for this very reason. It was really nice being inactive in a comfortable room.

I spent too long on my phone but ticked off some important to-do items. The first was very nearly finalising my choice of flight home to Australia in January. It took a bit of investigation to get to the bottom of baggage rules for different airlines, but I am confident I have worked out the easiest and cheapest option. I plan on flying with Emirates and packing my bicycle (and whatever luggage I can add up to a 30kg weight limit) as my main piece of checked luggage. I will send whatever doesn’t fit by courier, as excess baggage fees are just that: excessive. The flight from Paris would take 20 hours with a two-hour stopover in Dubai. I checked with my sister if it was okay with her if I got home four days before her wedding, just in case she needed help with anything before then. She is only likely going to need my help in the couple of days before it so she had no worries. I will let the idea sink in for a week or so before taking the plunge and buying a ticket.

The other thing I spent a substantial amount of time on was assessing route options across northern Italy and into France. I can either avoid mountains as much as possible and head around the coast to Marseilles before turning north towards Paris, or I can cut through the Alps. I mapped out different ways I could get across the Alps, and have tentatively selected one that avoids the hardest climbs and elevations, both of which will be problematic given my time constraints and the fact that I will be there in December.

I washed my clothes in the bathroom, the shower well providing the perfect trough. I ventured outside twice. The first time was immediately after breakfast to fill my water bottle from a public fountain that is part of the external wall of the hotel. The second time was to buy ibuprofen to reduce the inflammation in my Achilles tendon and surrounding area. Other tasks: upload photos to Facebook, update part of my website, send a long overdue update email to my family and close friends. When it came time for dinner I made a snap decision to not bother going out. Instead, I prepared a giant sandwich and ate some fruit. In between all of this I watched a movie called 50-50.

Bursa

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 0km
Total distance ridden 26,309km
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Day 956 (Turkey Day 35)

I have just ridden further in last two days than I have ever done so in any other two days of my life. I reached a grand total of 316km. Astonishingly, I didn’t make this distance because the riding was particularly easy – today I battled both long climbs and a strong afternoon headwind – but because I pushed my body right to the edge. Somehow I rode faster today than I did yesterday, averaging 21.3kph across 7.25 hours of pedalling. I am well and truly in need of at least one day off now. My Achilles is near breaking point – it is super swollen and I can feel its fibres grinding against each other. My right knee is also strained, with the surface of the knee cap hurting. My leg muscles feel bruised, but that is only a minor concern.

The riding got exciting after about 68km, when I commenced a 22km downhill that wound past forest in a beautiful state of decay, with a thousand different colours between yellow and red on display. Despite enjoying such a downhill run, a strong wind meant that I had to pedal to maintain speed, so it didn’t really provide a rest. It was from here on that I faced an unceasing headwind that had me wondering if something was wrong with my bike. I just didn’t feel like I was going as fast as my energy output should have allowed. This is because I wasn’t, I was simply being pushed back. Still, I gritted my teeth and pushed on. My steepest climbs were waiting for me when I arrived in the centre of Bursa, a very hilly city. I used the last of my energy checking out the price of four different hotels. Between Eskesehir and here, the price of hotels has doubled. I chose the one I felt most comfortable with, checked in and had a soothing shower. I ended up walking further than I would have liked to find dinner, mostly because of indecision about what I wanted. I ate at two places, enjoying two massive meals that have left me feeling pleasantly fat. I will be returning to the second place for more meals over the next day or two. I have tentatively reserved my room for three nights.

Bursa

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 154.74km
Average cycling speed 21.3kph
Total distance ridden 26,309km
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Day 955 (Turkey Day 34)

I don’t know what came over me today. My body shouldn’t have been as strong as it was, having ridden for the past four days, but I was on fire. I decided I’d found the perfect landscape through which to ride fast. You would think this would be flat, but it wasn’t. It was a rolling landscape of gentle climbs and gentle descents. The downhills let me absolutely fly along and carry enough momentum that I conquered each uphill with ease.

The first part of the day wasn’t like this though. Instead, it was one very long climb. Fortunately the weather prevented me from seeing just how steep and long the climb was. For my first couple of hours I rode through fog so thick I slowly got damp and had water dripping off my helmet. My world consisted of what I could see in the fifty metres around me. The fog lifted at the top of the climb, but returned again as soon as I descended into the next broad valley.

As I was laughing incredulously at how I was absolutely flying along, I began to wonder if would be possible to ride all the way to Eskisehir, a destination I expected would take me two days to reach. I knew that if I could keep up my speed it would be possible. I also knew that to keep my speed for an entire day seemed like an impossible task. Yet as the day wore on I maintained the power output from my legs and I slowly realised I was going to make it. In the end I rode what I think is the second furthest distance I have ever ridden in one day. For seven and a half hours I rode at 21kph. That’s no mean feat if I do say so myself.

My body is pretty wrecked though. My Achilles tendonitis in my right ankle is still giving me serious grief and I’m finding myself walking with a slight limp to reduce the pain. My groin fared well, thanks to the sports tape I stuck on in the morning. It’s stuck on pretty well, so who knows how any days or weeks it will take to come off, but at least for now it’s doing a good job of preventing my bike shorts from rubbing holes through my skin. I have decided to continue moving tomorrow. I’m even hoping I can ride a similar distance as today, which would knock two days off my original timing.

Woolly traffic

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 161.68km
Average cycling speed 21.1kph
Total distance ridden 26,154km
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Day 954 (Turkey Day 33)

Would you believe it? I got too warm in the night, thanks to a roof over my head and a fat mattress under me. Having got most of my stuff ready the night before, including laying out my clothes in the order I put them on, I had a relatively easy time getting ready for the day. I did indeed need to solve my problem of where to do a number two. Fortunately, I was right to suspect the mosque has some open toilets. Luckily, even though it seemed I was up well before anyone else in the village, the toilets were open and the lights worked.

As I climbed out of the village the mist dissipated and I could take in my surroundings as I entered a dirt road that took me through picturesque countryside. I came across a road block in the form of a herd of sheep being directed by two guys, a man and a boy. The boy on his donkey trotted over and I introduced myself before asking if I could take a photo of him. The man caught up and we had a very basic chat consisting of those questions I can understand in Turkish: where are you from and where are you going? The man invited me to sit on the donkey for a picture and I was happy to oblige. He posed next to me while the boy took the photo. Eventually, I popped out onto a main road, and the hard work began. Today was a day of extreme interval training, with long climbs followed by long descents. At one point I got a fright when a car veered straight for me. It was already behaving erratically on its approach and as I watched it continue behind me it continued to weave all over the road. At the top of the next rise I came across a car that I think had been run off the road. The driver seemed to be on the phone to the police and was stopping approaching cars to warm them about the crazy guy ahead.

The big hills continued all the way to Polatli, my current home. I decided to stay at the first hotel at which I checked the price, saving a run around. I then got super frustrated by the fact I had to wait for the water to get hot. I was told it would take an hour, but after this time the water was still cold. I got the impression one guy didn’t turn on the heater like he was meant to. I was then told to wait another hour. After a further one and a half hours the water was only just lukewarm. I approached reception again, and this time a guy came up to check it. He ran the water and in one of those annoying situations it began to run hot. It seems you need to run the water for a couple of minutes before the hot water starts coming through. Finally, I got my first properly hot shower since leaving Malatya, 12 days ago. I shocked myself at how skinny I looked in the face. I have been getting extra hungry lately and I think it is because my body is using up everything to try and stay warm. To combat further weight loss, I was happy to have an excuse to completely stuff my face. I visited a doner shop where I got a kebab and chips, then went to Domino’s where I got a pizza. I am now eating a big packet of chips as I write and have some more snacks to get through to bedtime. I also need to drink more water. The cold temperature has made me forget to keep my fluids up, but my urine colour and slight headache suggests I haven’t been having enough. I also need to start wearing suncream, as my face is a little burnt.

On arrival in Polatli I stopped when I spotted a chemist. My skin is wearing through on two places on my thighs, thanks to my bike shorts becoming slack with age and rubbing. I wanted to find some cloth tape. I was about to leave, having been told (after using google translate etc) that they didn’t have any when a kind bystander who could speak English asked what I wanted. ‘A bandage that is sticky’, I said. He passed on this information and lo and behold they brought out some perfect stuff.

As I eat my snacks and write, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in Turkish, is on TV. When I checked in I wasn’t sure if I was going to have a day off or not, but I have decided to push on for another two days before I have a break. Hopefully my body holds up.

My new ride

Accommodation $ Hotel
Distance ridden today 79.61km
Average cycling speed 15.3kph
Total distance ridden 25,993km
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Day 953 (Turkey Day 32)

I am getting better at some things, but not at others. Today I donned socks on my hands from the get go, and with two pairs of socks as well as shoes instead of sandals, I entered the day with warm hands and feet. I haven’t made any improvements at staying warm overnight, however. My feet were cold when I went to bed and the coldness crept into my lower legs. No amount of wriggling managed to get them warm again. It seems that I simply can’t let my feet get cold before bed, otherwise they will stay cold. The trouble is even if I remain in my double-layered socks and shoes, my feet get cold between the time I stop riding and the time I’m ready for bed. Not only did my feet and lower legs get cold, but so too did the rest of my body, just not to the same extent. I could feel the cold emanating through the concrete, a sign that my foam sleeping mat is failing to keep me insulated. This is a bit of a worry, as without a good barrier between myself and the ground, I have no chance of keeping warm as nightly temperatures only get colder. In the middle of the night I took the drastic step of pulling out my emergency blanket from my first aid kit and spreading it out over my sleeping mat. The blanket is a thin layer of highly reflective silver plastic, designed to treat shock by keeping heat in (when someone is hypothermic) or out (when someone is suffering heat stress). I also tied my feet into plastic bags, but they did nothing.

I knew that today I would be spending a lot of time on a main highway heading towards Ankara, so I began to consider heading into the city to buy gloves and something extra to sleep on. This would add a couple of days to my journey. Soon into the day I decided not to. This is probably partly because my body warmed up and I forgot how cold I was in the night and two mornings ago. Hopefully I don’t regret it. I figure my socks are doing a good job with my hands, and I can continue to trial the emergency blanket as an insulator.

With a ceiling over my head, my tent remained dry overnight so I faced a fairly quick pack up. I still didn’t get away super quickly though because I am failing to get up when my alarm goes off. In fact, my mind is not even registering that the noise it hears is a signal to start the day. I think this is partly because I set the alarm time a couple of weeks ago, to go off just when there is a sign of light in the sky. But now the days have shortened enough that there is no detectable light when it goes off, so my body and mind just continue to sleep. Tonight I have set my watch so that it goes off slightly later, and four times instead of two.

I might not be over my tyre issues just yet. When I woke up my rear tyre was slightly flat. I pumped it up and got through the day fine though. I rode fairly quickly today, encouraged along by heavy highway traffic. I appreciated having an emergency lane all to myself as huge trucks and speeding cars flew past on their way to the capital. I was slowed down at times by a headwind or hill climb, but still managed to make fairly good time.

I have had good luck again regarding finding a place to sleep. I am now off the highway and heading west on small roads through tiny villages. It was about 3.40pm (twenty minutes before my usual end-of-day deadline) when I passed through Golbek. As I passed the village’s mosque, I was suddenly struck by the desire to see if I can spend the night there. I could see an enclosed verandah area that would be a perfect place to set up undercover. I parked up and began poking around trying to find someone. As I did so a group of men called out to me from down the road. I retrieved my bike then rode over to them. They were five guys, probably in their 70s and 80s. As I approached I introduced myself my telling them my name and that I am from Australia. They asked me where I was going. Beyond this I had no idea what they were asking me and they had no idea what I was saying to them. I gestured that I was looking for an undercover place to set up my tent. Two guys had a 20-second chat before one of them seemed to indicate I could set up nearby. He slowly led me back towards the mosque while the other guy disappeared into a house. When he appeared he had a set of keys in his hand. I was led to a building and shown in. Of the two rooms, one is being used as a bit of a store room, with an old bed, plastic chairs, sink, urn and other bits and pieces. The other room is a clean, carpeted sitting room, its edges lined with thin mattresses and cushions. I was welcome to set up in there, he said. I assume the place is a community meeting area, maybe where the old men in the village like to gather and hang out.

After showing me in, the guy left and I haven’t seen anyone since. I prepared a bed, got changed and started making dinner. While I was making dinner I was struck by the realisation I didn’t have access to a toilet. As I am normally camping out in places where I can just go anywhere, I’m not in the habit of thinking ahead. For the first time in my life, I pissed into a plastic bottle. I am putting off the thought of what I will do if I need to do a number two.

So comfy

Accommodation Village community room
Distance ridden today 93km
Average cycling speed 18.5kph
Total distance ridden 25,913km
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Day 952 (Turkey Day 31)

I was very pleased to discover my front tyre was still full of air when I woke up. I was very pissed off to get a puncture in my rear tyre after just 7km. My rear tube has no less than four tiny holes in it. An inspection of the inside of my tyre revealed the cause: tiny thorns. It seems I will have to be extra careful in this part of Turkey and avoid taking my bike off well-trodden surfaces as much as possible.

I struggled in the morning as I got cold in the night. I woke up to ice on the tent and my bike. My hands got so cold they started hurting badly. When I started riding, they became so agonising I couldn’t help but yell out in pain. My gloves are just not thick enough to keep out the air. I had to do something. I pulled off the second pair of socks that I had on my feet and stuck them over my hands. This was just enough to keep them a little warm and the pain slowly faded away. My feet however, now with only one pair of socks covering them, got a little cold. Tomorrow I will have to utilise my third (and final) pair of socks so that I can have two pairs on my feet and one on my hands. I’m unlikely to pass through a place that sells gloves for quite some time.

When I woke up the world was shrouded in mist and I could only see for 50m around me. It wasn’t until 11am that it began to clear and my surroundings revealed itself. More farmland on rolling hills. Fixing my rear tyre problem took a while, so my day felt a little ruined and I haven’t made it as far as I’d hoped. Unlike yesterday, which was generally flat, I had quite a few hills to get over today. Still, they were nice hills. The area I have passed through is sparsely populated, with a small village roughly every 10km. In between is just empty farmland.

My home tonight is a derelict building adorned in graffiti. I couldn’t resist getting a roof over my head in the hope that it wards off further ice. I had to clear away some dirt and glass from the main room in the building before I could set up my tent. It’s still going to be pretty cold though. Half the building is completely open to the air. My room has an empty window and a breeze blows through it and into the open space on the other side. Before I could set up my tent I had to dry it off. This morning I had packed it away while covered in ice, knowing it wouldn’t dry for hours, so when I pulled it out this evening it was completely soaked through. While the tent was drying I set about preparing dinner. I set up the tent while my rice was cooking, then got changed into warm clothes while my vegetables were cooking. Tonight I am doubling up on everything: two pairs of socks, two pairs of thermal long johns and two pairs of thermal tops. I will likely also have to sleep in my thick buff, beanie and gloves.

Day 952a

Every road leads to Gamze

Accommodation Free-camp
Distance ridden today 67.86km
Average cycling speed 15.2kph
Total distance ridden 25,820km
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