On the second attempt I manage to lift my now fully packed touring bike up the three steps separating Hotel Arafats doorway from the street outside. We have been in Istanbul for less than 24 hours and its been over 2 years since I last lifted a fully packed touring bike.
“Does yours seem a bit heavy?”, I shout at Maghnus as I make a clumsy attempt to balance the bike against a nearby curb. Inevitably it falls and takes me a good two minutes to pick it up and prepare for a photo marking the beginning of our 16,000km journey.
I’m rusty, that’s for sure, my longest cycle of the last two years has been the 5km jaunt to work and my general fitness has fallen by the wayside as I’ve devoted my attention to expedition logistics.
Turkey was supposed to be an opportunity to clean out these cobwebs and grow accustomed to a way of life I once knew so well. Alas visa complications meant this wouldn’t be possible and from the moment that photo is taken we are up against the clock with an ambitious target of 1600km in 14 days lying ahead. I push off, wobbling over the cobbled stones, hoping against hope that I begin to remember how I used to do this and quickly.
Im writing this 4 weeks and 2500km down the road sitting in the comfortable surroundings of and cafe in downtown Tehran. The intervening month has been in equal parts demanding and rewarding. I am a full stone lighter with hands covered in cuts and more photos on my camera than I gathered in 24 months at home. It is for this reason that I enjoy this way of life so; it demands everything but gives back in equal measure.
Each day is full of unexpected events and involves a full range of emotions. There is disappointment at the sound of morning rain on your tent , satisfaction at the top of a climb , disillusion as you cycle into a head wind and elation at a border crossing.In fact the only emotion not to feature could be boredom.
The one prerequisite to succeeding in this business is that you love the process. Being rusty is manageable, only boredom has no place.
Just 3 days and 380km left to the Iranian border, will put up a video, pictures and blog describing our trip through Turkey when we get our first day off.
I have two thoughts as to how best start this blog; “Its wonderfully difficult....” or “It’s horribly difficult...” Actually, the syntax is largely irrelevant the way I’m feeling, it’s just difficult. The cycling I mean. The juggling act which involved fitting five protracted visa applications into two months left us with only fourteen days to cross Turkey and enter Iran before the visa period expired. The result has been near continuous cycling.
On Monday and Tuesday we climbed incessantly for hours and both nights slept below freezing. Come Wednesday afternoon I was frantically searching a town for suncream as temperatures soared above 30 degrees Celsius. Today we cycled surrounded by a landscape hidden completely by snow in t-shirts and shorts desperately trying to stay cool.
We now have four days remaining with which to cycle the remaining 560 km climbing over 2000 mtrs in the process. Turkey has been nothing if not unpredictable. The people have been magnificent, the climate a contradiction and the cycling a constant challenge. Confronted with such extremes and save for sitting on our bikes and peddling most things are out of our hands, however, the one thing we have been able to control is our diet. And control it we have;
- 1 days cycling 8-10 hours.
- 1 days eating;
- Half-pan bread
- 4 tablespoons Turkish nutella
- 100g cheese
- 150g Salami
- 250g pasta
- 1.5 - 2 ltrs coke (or equivalent)
- 1 packet biscuits
- 250 g Turkish cake
- 200g beans
- 4 slices brown bread
- 4 tablespoons mayonnaise
Gotta go pitch a tent.