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


The end is nigh – at least for the European leg of my trip before my winter pause. James needs to be in Istanbul on November 20 and Istanbul is still a long way away. Long kilometres on the main road before we branched off on the smaller road approach into Istanbul. Oh. And I passed 5000km.

The 5000km mark

The 5000km mark

We aimed at 100km for today. On my North Cape trip, 100km was the minimum goal for a day. Here, with the hilly roads, and little daylight, it is an achievement. We just cycled along fairly uninteresting roads until dusk. No lamb slaughters tonight. Lots of rain and thunder in the night, though. Tomorrow Istanbul.

The D100 towards Istanbul

The D100 towards Istanbul

Istanbul 100km

Istanbul 100km


My head is spinning. This evening was crazy. ‘Don’t turn around’, whispered James as we left the car and walked up the steps of the hotel. Behind us they removed the freshly slaughtered lamb from the boot. What a man’s night out it was.

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In the quest for a cheap hotel in Lüleburgaz, we were introduced to ‘the Boss’ – a middle-aged man in a smart suit, who arranged a room for us in the teacher’s accommodation. And then he invited us for a drive to a country village to see friends.

After 45 minute tobacco-rich drive through the dark Turkish countryside, passing villages with vicious dogs the size of bears, we pulled in to a small farm, and stepped out of the car. We shook hands with the farmer, and then watched as he went into the shed in front of the car where a sheep was lying, struggling, its legs tied together. We were not there 30 seconds and the throat was slit, blood gushed out, and the head was severed, to be inspected by a little dog, its tail wagging furiously. The sheep spasmed for about a minute after the slaughter, at which point we were ushered back into the car and drove on.

The next stop was a tea-house in the little village. We were brought in from the dark and introduced to everyone – all middle-aged or old men. The words Australia and New Zealand were used, causing some comments and laughter. We took a seat at one of the tables near the wooden stove in the middle of the brightly lit room. People stared at us, chatted, and watched the football playing on the television behind us as they drank one glass of tea after the next, and smoked one cigarette after the next. ‘Where are the women?’ ‘At home. Only men come here.’

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I asked for the toilet, and was brought outside by the sheep slaughterer. In the dark, away from the lights of the central intersection of the village, I made out a little wooden shed, much like an Australian ‘dunny’ (toilet). My friend indicated to piss in the grass next to the shed.

Time to move on, and we were ushered back into the car. Next stop was a little ‘holiday house’ where a group of men were sitting out on the verandah barbecuing fish. We were introduced to them all by the Boss, before they returned to their conversation in Turkish. There was a lot of laughter and cheer. The points of entertainment were us, or ‘men’ jokes. It was a really friendly bunch. A lot of delicious fish was cooked for us, and the salad, bread and nuts were pushed in our direction. A lot of Facebook photos were taken before returning to the car where we returned to the town.

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We were taken to the best dessert place in town, where people were moved by the dessert café owner, so we could take a seat. The dessert was superb. James pointed out that I am lucky that my pancreas is working..

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The evening ended with a stroll through the town. Everyone greeted the Boss, and shook our hands, the guys from Australia and New Zealand. Back at the hotel, where the car was parked – ‘I’ll see you tomorrow morning at breakfast.’ The Boss waited and watched as we turned and returned to the hotel. ‘Don’t turn back,’ whispered James. I knew what there was to see, and snuck a peek, even through I may have turned into a pillar of salt. The plastic bags with hooves sticking into the air were rushed inside.

Well. That trumped our day’s cycling down a freeway-like road for 76km in the undulating misty landscape, rising 50m and dropping 50m, and rising 50m again. It was a big road, but not busy, no mad drivers, and a big strip for slow vehicles (us).

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We leave the main road tomorrow as we approach Istanbul. Who knows what crazy things this country will bring us tomorrow. I’m enjoying every minute of it!


What a day of experiences! Not much cycling, but a lot of excitement and lumps in throats crossing the border into Turkey (at least a lump in my throat). It feels kind of like a coming-of-age as a world cycler. We have left the ‘west’ and are in TURKEY, having cycled here from our European homes – Holland for me and England for James!

Entering into Turkey

Entering into Turkey

But first into Greece. Our passports were thoroughly checked. I was asked where the stamp from Blato was from. I couldn’t remember. James started to say Macedon…, saw the border guard’s ashen face, and then bit is tongue. FYROM – The Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia. We got our passports back.

Entering Greece

Entering Greece

More long, straight, flat roads in Greece

More long, straight, flat roads in Greece

I may be entering the realm of world cyclers, but, I still scream like a baby receiving a turkish massage. James and I went to the local hamman for a thorough clean and massage. Lying on the marble podium, I stared up at the domed ceiling with the patterns of stars and hexagons letting the light in from outside. There were drips of water which reverberated across the dome. I was called first for the massage. Man it hurt, but if felt good afterwards. I screamed, and also giggled. The masseur also snickered – in a fun way. I felt wonderfully clean and relaxed. James didn’t utter a whimper.

After the hamman

After the hamman

Our kind warm-showers host owns a bike shop, and it is a hive of activity in the shop, and the neighbouring restaurant. People passed by constantly and welcomed us to Turkey. We also met a Croatian couple that have just cycled from China. Lots of stories to hear. Not many to tell – yet. It feels like a different world we are entering, and I am very excited.

The mosque at Edirne

The mosque at Edirne

At our warm showers host in Edirne

At our warm showers host in Edirne

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Everything according to schedule. From 250m, up to 630m, down to 200m, up to 800m, down to 200m. Home, done and dusted, and ready for dinner by 4. James had 3, or maybe 4 courses, depending on how you count. It’s good to have some hills. We felt overfed and under-exerted yesterday. :-)

At 800m, our highest point today - Popsko

At 800m, our highest point today – Popsko

I am amazed how many people speak German here. English is less useful than German. I was told that the reason for this is that many have been in Germany for work. This morning, I even conversed in Dutch. The guy at our hotel in Momchilgrad was wearing a jumper from Albert Heijn (a Dutch supermarket chain) Pijnacker (a tiny village near Delft where I lived for a year). At dinner this evening I was told that all the villages in this part of Bulgaria are empty, as people have all moved to work in western Europe. Ivaylovgrad, once a town with 15000 inhabitants, now has a population of only 4000. They do have a nice hotel which makes good Creme Caramels though. :-)

Breakfast was bought at the local market. Seeing a milk-looking drink, I had to try it – even though I was warned it was not milk.

Not a milk drink

Not a milk drink

Not a milk drink

Not a milk drink

The first climb was uneventful as it was grey and misty. The second because we were in the balding forest with no views the whole time. We did see a donkey pulled cart, though.

The views are hidden by the balding forest

The views are hidden by the balding forest

Donkey and cart

Donkey and cart

From our humble abode in Ivaylovgrad, we are a mere 5km from Greece, and only 50km from Edirne – one of the gems of Turkey. Turkey sounds so distant from good ol’ Eindhoven, and we are both very excited. Turkey, here we come!!