Quite a lot to cover in this post as, due to a lack of decent internet, I have not done a blog for the last 375 miles. I’ll gloss over some of the boring parts of this leg and focus on the juicy bits (Sleeping rough, muddy mountain roads and crossing fields and train lines in the dark).
It feels good to smash another thousand mile marker. Arriving in Trabzon in many ways marks one third of the trip as being complete. I’m exactly 3,000 miles into a roughly 9,000 mile trip and I’ve ridden through 40 of the 121 degrees of longitude that are the namesake of this blog. This is also where the real bureaucracy starts but I’ve hit the ground running by successfully getting an Iran visa, an application process more akin to a lottery.
Another little leg of the journey done and I’m glad to of found out that my fitness hasn’t seemed to have suffered too much despite my 6 week break back in England. I rode just over 400km in four days through fairly tough terrain climbing two passes over 1100m. Not bad at all!
Well I’m finally back on the road and have just finished my first little stint. I momentarily considered changing my route, heading south to Cyprus, but changed my mind yet again after realising the ferry to the island costs almost as much as a flight from London. I’ll save that trip for another day.
Joy! I’ve just reached Istanbul having cycled all the way across Europe from London. I was worried that it wouldn’t feel special to reach here as Istanbul is somewhere I’ve visited before, but, as it turned out, during the agonising three days cycling towards it my memories of the place are what spurred me on to reach it a day early. This may seem like a depressing post but I will now detail probably the three most physically gruelling days of my life.
I thought I’d do a short post now otherwise the one I write once I reach Istanbul will end up being way too long. I’ve just spent a day off in Edirne, Turkey. I’d planned to go straight from Plovdiv to Istanbul but the other day I had a quick look into the towns I’d been cycling through and it turns out Edirne is a huge place with mass of interesting stuff to checkout, plus some great dishes to try. But first lets go back to Plovdiv…
After the events of my last post (Taksim Square protests) I flew to a city in Eastern Turkey called Diyarbakir, which I’d found earlier was the closest city to the Iraqi border crossing that had both an airport and a bus station which I could find online references to having a bus to Iraq (As a result of the trip it also appears you could fly to the interestingly named city of Batman and catch the same bus later on its route, although I would recommend Diyarbakir for having slightly more things to see and do).
I was travelling with a friend on this trip and we’d anticipated that the Turkish part of the journey would be fairly event free but once we were into Iraqi customs things would quickly become a bit more tense, little did we know the terrifying situation we would be driving into…
I spent last week in northern Iraq and when I booked the flights six months ago I arranged for a one day layover in Istanbul to get a feel for the place, little did I know that it would end up being a major highlight of this trip. About 2 weeks before my arrival massive protests broke out across Turkey due to anti-government sentiment, in particular a disdain for the current Prime Minister Erdogen, which was all sparked by a plan to redevelop Istanbuls central square (Taksim) and a park (Gezi) into a new complex.
I initially vowed to steer clear of those protests as getting caught up in something like this in a foreign country is not really advisable, however, it appeared that the harsh police intervention against these protests was consistently only occurring at night when the crowds were at their lowest numbers. I reckoned that heading there in the afternoon would be reasonably safe and that I would leave immediately at any sign of trouble. When I noticed there was a direct tram straight from my hostel that really sealed the deal.