My last day of cycling for 2014. It has been an amazing trip. I am now left with my memories, some great new friends, and my three dog rocks. They won’t be needed any more now.

The three dog rocks - for aggressive dogs (of which there are many)

The three dog rocks – for aggressive dogs (of which there are many)

In the book ‘On the Beach’ by Nevil Shute, radiation from a huge world war that killed everything in the Northern Hemisphere was slowly creeping south. When the book started, Brisbane went ‘out’ (died of radiation). Finally the radiation reached Melbourne, and people made the most of their last days before the radiation killed them too, and there was nothing left alive. On my bike trip I have been running from the winter. Places became too cold just after I left them. The rain and cold has arrived in Istanbul. James is fleeing for the winter, leaving today. I am left, with a forecast of rain, rain and rain. I will try to move my flight out forward. The first part of my bike trip from Holland to Australia is complete, and it is time to call it a day.

On the Beach. Nevil Shute

On the Beach. Nevil Shute

The road from Gönen to Bandirma was freeway-like and very uninteresting. My boat to Istanbul is in the evening, and I am sitting in a warm cafe in Bandirma watching people walk by. My departure from Eindhoven 2.5 months ago seems a lifetime ago. So much has happened – so many amazing places I’ve seen, incredible people I’ve met, and things that have happened. And the great thing is, there is a LOT more coming up next year. As my friends in Boston say – ‘AWESOME’. See you all next year!

The road from Gönen

The road from Gönen

Day 74. 74km. Çan – Gönen

Posted: November 28, 2014 in Cycling
Tags: , , ,

Good cycling roads are different to good driving roads. A good cycling road has few cars, and no fast cars. It therefore needs to be windy, have some bumps and potholes, and pass through many small villages. Today the road to Gönen was never signposted as such. A good sign! I confirmed that it actually did go to Gönen and had a lovely, peaceful ride through the Turkish countryside.

On the way to Gönen

On the way to Gönen

This feels like the real Turkey I want to cycle through. No big freeway-like roads, but small roads where everyone waves. Small villages with chickens waddling around. And regular stops to eat Börek and other pastry delights. Oh, and quite a few vicious dogs – the three rocks are always ready in the back pockets of my cycling tricot.

A small Turkish village

A small Turkish village

On the way to Gönen

On the way to Gönen

Little did I know, but Gönen is quite a tourist centre – in the summer. It is famous for its hot springs, and there is a squillion hotels and pensions clustered around the spring and public hammam. I didn’t know this, and didn’t find them initially. A kind man who spoke German helped me find them, and also explained how the hammam worked. The hammam was wonderful, and I feel squeaky clean again! :-)

My friend helped me find a cheap pension

My friend helped me find a cheap pension


A little kitten, all alone, meowing on the side of the road. Outside in the cold. I almost tried to take her in my handlebar bag. Passers-by didn’t seem too concerned. Maybe they didn’t understand me. She might freeze. Or get squashed.

A lonely little kitten

A lonely little kitten

After all the cold days, I was worried about climbing into the mountains. There was no need. It was short-sleeve weather for me (about 6C, I think – I overheat easily, as James can testify to). It was also big head-wind weather today. As I crawled along the valley, I was a bit worried about reaching Çan before sunset. (In the end, I made it easily.) And, finally, it was impressive cloud weather today. Although sometimes dark and looming, the clouds kept their water to themselves.

Up the valley from Çanakkale

Up the valley from Çanakkale

Up the valley from Çanakkale

Up the valley from Çanakkale

The road to Çan

The road to Çan

Looming clouds

Looming clouds

See how small she is

See how small she is

Thanks to the kind hotel manager at the Anzac Hotel in Çanakkale, I am now in a hotel that I would have never have found. Recommended as a cheap hotel, it is inside the security wall of a ceramic factory. It reminds me a bit of the teacher accommodation we stayed at in Lüleburgaz. It is a hotel, but, not for the normal public – or at least, it is not widely advertised. Its perfect for a tired cyclist! :-)


The sun came out on this frosty day as I peddled alone on the wind-swept peninsula. Outside, I only heard the tranquil sound of the wind and the waves, but inside I felt the earth shudder, the chatter of rifles, and the screams of pointless death around me – almost 100 years ago. Tiny knolls in an all too common rolling-hill landscape have great significance by the death burden they carry. Today I felt that burden, and cried.

Anzac Cove

Anzac Cove

What a peaceful place. I was alone today. The roads were empty. Some farmers ploughed their fields. Some people were picking olives. Most of the time, it was me, the sun, the wind, and my thoughts. Thoughts of what happened here 100 years ago. How insignificant and mundane the famous beaches were. I stopped at Beach V – one of the Allies’ landing points at the southern tip of the Gallipoli peninsula. There was hardly a beach at all.

Beach V

Beach V

There were two areas – two little specks of land – that were held by the Allies for the extent of the Gallipoli battle. One was at the tip, and one at Anzac Cove. The Helles Memorial overlooks Beach V.

Helles Memorial

Helles Memorial

Around Anzac Cove, small knolls, undulations, crags, all have Australian names. They were too insignificant to have Turkish names. Now their significance is burned into history. I visited a cemetery near Anzac Cove. Protected from the wind, there was an eery silence. The lawn was lush and the sky was blue. A bird flapped overhead. I stood there amongst the gravestones. Men aged 22, 21 – I saw one 17. All died in 1915. Here where I stood were trenches.

Cemetery

Cemetery

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

At the going down of the sun

At the going down of the sun

In the morning

In the morning

Monument to the Fallen

Monument to the Fallen

Words of Atatürk

Words of Atatürk


Today was a day of thoughts. The road was straight and the wind was strong, and my thoughts were on Australia and my youth. I had studied the war-poet Wilfred Owen at school, and I felt a lump in my throat as I approached the almost sacred Anzac territory of the Dardanelles and the Gallipoli peninsula. My family was here 100 years ago, as were the families of the lovely people around me that have welcomed me to their country. War is such a horrible thing.

On the road to Çanakkale

On the road to Çanakkale

Rugged up like a mummy I went out into the cold – which wasn’t that cold. I peeled off the layers and basked in the sun (briefly). And who was there, but the 2 French girls James and I met in Croatia before entering Bosnia Herzegovina?

I meet the French cyclists again

I meet the French cyclists again

It was a day of clouds and sun, with beams of light piercing the clouds to make for beautiful vistas.

Sunset in the military museum.

Sunset in Çanakkale

Sunset in Çanakkale

And, just after having installed myself in the Anzac Hotel (an appropriate place for my stay), I stumbled across 3 heavily laden bikes with 3 bike tourers – a group of friends from France cycling to Iran in the winter (!). We ended up having a lovely evening sharing our left-wing radical views and discovering some common interests and activities of touring cyclists. Follow them on their blog: http://bikingtotehran.tumblr.com

Touring cyclist get-together

Touring cyclist get-together


Is it cheating? Well, no. I’ve already cycled all the way from Holland to Istanbul. This is just a side-trip waiting for my flight to take me away from the winter. But, yes. It was cold, windy and very bleak, and I hitched a lift with a truck. Such a lovely offer.

Such a warm offer.

Such a warm offer.

On arriving in Istanbul my state of being flipped. It switched in a nanosecond. I was a world-cycler, ready to battle through wind and rain, up hills and through traffic to get to my goal. Once my goal was reached, I became an exhausted shadow of myself, ready to nod off at a minute’s notice all through the day, finding it difficult to muster up the energy to negotiate Istanbul’s slopes on foot. My body was tired, and so I stopped, and became a lounger. The weather was perfect for lounging – rain, grey and cold.

Grey Istanbul

Grey Istanbul

My cycle trip for 2014 finishes on December 5 with a flight to Australia and then Taiwan before returning to Istanbul at the end of February. Bleak as it is, after 3 days in Istanbul as a pedestrian tourist, Drahtesel was calling – ‘ride me, ride me.’ I want to visit Galipoli, a very important place for Australians, New Zealanders, and Turks for where a lot of lives were lost in the First World War.

Drahtesel may have been calling, but, at 5am when the alarm went off to catch the early boat across the Sea of Marmara to Bandirma, I wasn’t motivated. In negotiating the steep stairs of the B&B with Drahtesel, a water bottle fell off and broke. Why am I doing this? Riding off into the dark, the wind and the rain? Without a definite goal in front of me, this trip was not motivating.

The road was freeway-like (like the D100 towards Istanbul), but not much traffic, and less hilly. It was cold, though – the days of frolicking in the turquoise waters are past.

The grey road to Biga

The grey road to Biga

Feeling sorry for myself, sheltering from the wind at a service station, eating a chocolate bar, a kind truck driver offered me a lift to Biga. I was planning on stopping there for the night. A 30km trip in the warmth was much more appealing that on the bike in the cold. Time for a cheat. :-)

The kind truck driver

The kind truck driver

Now in Biga, things feel different. I am warm, and am being showered by gifts. The truck driver gave me biscuits and apples. The hotel owners any number of cakes, biscuits and turkish delight. And the butcher gave me my whole meal for free. I am a friend. Lovely people, everyone!

Thank you Adnan for the lovely dinner

Thank you Adnan for the lovely dinner

Çanakkale is about 100km away, and I am looking forward to seeing the place where the Anzac soldiers fought. How will I get there? Probably by cycling. Or maybe, if a nice truck driver stops…


The rain and thunder howled around our tents at night, but left in the day as we cycled along our own private freeway – almost car-free – towards Istanbul. Its great to see my friends in Istanbul and have a lovely evening in front of the fireplace.

Our own private freeway

Our own private freeway

The roads were still wet, and the clouds looming, as we cycled off into the day. A crack opened in the clouds, which finally opened out into blue sky.

A crack in the clouds

A crack in the clouds

The freeway is nearly finished. It is meant to link Europe with Asia across an, as-yet, unbuilt bridge across the Bosphorus. It seems to be Turkey’s best kept secret. There were minutes on end without a single car in sight, and we did loops and stunts on our own private freeway. In the end we needed to leave the freeway due to the traffic, and onto a muddy road with lots of factories and aggressive dogs.

Our own private freeway

Our own private freeway

The road was muddy

The road was muddy

And then, after 5147km, I was standing on the shores of the Bosphorus – the border between Europe and Asia. It was grim, and wet, but, I still had to jump for joy – what an amazing and fun trip it has been. And why not even let my stomach hang out for the shot?

Arrival at the Bosphorus

Arrival at the Bosphorus

Thanks Diederik and Wendelin for your great hospitality, and letting me store my bike here over the winter! I really appreciate it!!

Diederik and Wendelien

Diederik and Wendelien