After having spent nearly 3 weeks in Istanbul, resting, doing maintenance and attempting to sort visas, it was an amazing feeling to finally to hop back on the uni and start making progress into my second content of this tour, Asia. Knowing that I had already crossed Europe (and travelled almost 3000 miles!) did a lot to fill me with confidence, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive about starting the 9000mile route I had planned through Asia.
I left Istanbul with the aim of escaping the deadly traffic as quickly as possible so cycled the surprisingly uncrowded cycle path along the coast to Kartal where I caught a ferry to Yalova. The crossing only took around half an hour, but arriving at the ferry port at 5.30 PM I had to wait for an hour before the 6.30 crossing.
I hate riding in busy cities (I don’t think any cyclist does), sometimes opting to walk through if I feel it’s getting too dangerous. Istanbul definitely fits the category of ‘too dangerous’ so taking this ferry was a great call. 10 minutes after arriving at Yalova I was rolling down the main road on my own personal ‘cycle path’. Well ok it was the hard shoulder but it was all mine and the surface was perfect (if you avoid the frequent broken glass!).
I rode until dark and then knocked on an old couples door to see if I could camp in there garden. They kindly agreed and, after clearing a section of grass of chicken poo, pitched up and went to sleep. I don’t know why I was so knackered as I’d only cycled a couple of hours that day. I guess it was just getting back into the routine, but I felt great to be making progress and back sleeping in my fabric home once again.
From my experience it is obligatory to offer tea (Chai) to anyone everyone in Turkey and in the morning the old couple, who’s garden I had slept in, didn’t disappoint.
Turkey has a problem with wild dogs and so far from my experience the whole country seems to be saturated with them. Luckily the majority are docile and are much more interested in food than chasing me. Here is one I had visit during lunch.
After lunch I faced a killer climb. I managed to pedal the first 200 meters or so of the 10% grade, but soon had to admit defect and push. Hills are definitely one of the drawbacks to unicycle touring. With no down-gearing and one pedal rotation gaining close to 3m (on a 36er), steep ascents quickly increase my heart rate leave me panting. Walking with the uni really isn’t much of an ordeal though and I can easily sustain a pace of around 3.5mph which I’m assuming is similar to a bicyclist in ‘granny gear’.
Since Bulgaria I have made a couple of modifications to my machine. Firstly is the addition of the solar panel from Voltaic (thank you Voltaic for the 50% discount). I bought this before I left the UK but to save weight decided not to bother with it during Europe as charging wouldn’t be an issue . Now however that I’m camping more frequently and having less opportunity to charge, I decided to attach it and the panel had so far been a great addition, successfully keeping my phone, front light and camera topped up.
Secondly is the extra litre of water (underneath the solar panel), bringing my total up to 2 litres. Now this may not sound like much, but this has so far been adequate due to the frequent petrol stations and taps. I may well add more capacity to my setup at some point, but for now this amount seems perfect.
When I eventually made it to the top of the hill the light had disappeared. Spotting a small village on the map, called Derbent, I turned off the main road in search of a garden to camp in (with the owners permission of course). After explaining (with the help of a few phrases that had kindly been translated for me by the police on my first day in Turkey) that I was cycling around the world and was in search of somewhere to pitch my tent, I was immediately set up with (you guessed it) more tea AND dinner And a makeshift bed in the tiny village prayer hall.
From my experience comparing the other countries I have cycled through, the willingness of the Turkish people to help is unparalleled. And after a long, slow, sweaty day of walking up hills, kindness like this is monumentally appreciated and I can tell you that that night I slept well.
I like to vary where sleep. When I’m feeling sociable I’ll find a garden to pitch in and when I’m not, opt to find a secluded spot where I can be alone. The next night, after another hot day of 50 miles, finds me in a small wooded area. It looks peaceful, but it reality it is only around 20 meters away from the thunder of the main road.
So far in Turkey I have found the heat to be the biggest challenge. Riding on the dual carriageways offers very few shady options. Luckily the petrol stations are very frequent so I’ve found myself darting from one to then next. I love rolling into the petrol stations because invariably I’ll end up chatting to the workers and will be offered tea.
On one occasion the owner of the petrol station offered the buy me lunch at the adjoining restaurant. The rice, beef and salad really hit the spot.
4 days after leaving Istanbul I arrived in Eskisehir and was greeted by my generous Warmshowers host Ali.
So Singapore is still a crazy distance away but it feels good to have at least ticked off a few Asian miles. The culture is changing rapidly and I’m optimistic that this continent will continue to be good to me. ONWARDS THROUGH TURKEY!