Friday, June 14, 2013

Day 1 - Istanbul to Silivri

Waking with the 4h30 prayer call, as we had done so many times before in Egypt and Sudan, Carrie and I packed our bags in preparation for a sunrise departure from Istanbul. We had heard that the city was difficult to navigate on a bicycle and we wanted to do it with as little traffic as possible, even if that meant doing it on only a couple of hours of sleep.

We went back to Taksim as a starting point for the journey, then began the long ride out. And, long it was. Istanbul is *not* a city for cyclists. There are few bikes, no space for cyclists on the road, and many, many obstacles (ultra-high curbs, damaged sidewalks, broken glass, razor wire).

We rode all day through dense urban sprawl, never seeming to exit the city (though, according to the map, we made it through several along the way). It took us 12 hours to cover the 85km of road leading to the oceanside town of Silivri. Much of day was spent walking/lifting our loaded bikes through unrideable stretches out of the city, but some of it was spent on brief encounters with people, which made it a great day. A few of my favourite encounters included:

1. A 22-year old Uzbek selling coffee from his van near the sea. He spoke no english, but he was so excited to meet us that he ran to find a friend who could write down his name, origin, email address, phone number, and facebook name on a piece of paper, which he handed to us as we left.

2. Just a few kilometres later, Carrie noticed some balloons and broken bottles that were suspended by wood and string just beside the sea. It looked like there had been a some kind of celebration. We went over to check it out and three guys with a couple of pellet rifles approached us. It was a shooting game. Of course, we stopped and played.

3. We stopped and asked for directions from a security guard. The guy was so committed to helping us find our way that he walked with us for about 1km to make sure that we got to the correct turn off.

4. We passed a man at the side of the road who was making gravestones. He waved us over and wanted to take a picture with us. Though there was no language overlap, he was able to help direct us to take a quiet road paralleling the highway. Riding became a lot nicer after that.

5. We stopped for coffee and a man in a suit sat down beside us. He had just come from a job interview. We chatted about life and experiences for a while. He was positive, but a bit frustrated. He needed this job. The conversation was interrupted by a telephone call. His face lit up and we learned that he got the job! High fives all around. It was nice to share this moment with him.

6. We walked into a bike shop and asked if there was a place nearby where we could camp. The three bike shop guys didn't speak english, but they had a computer and internet access and were friendly and helpful (as bike shop guys usually are). Google served as our translator. The conversation went a bit like this:

'Camping beach possible'


'6-7 km after'

(Not great. By this time, it was 8pm by this time and we were ready to settle for the night)

'First lady camp problem'

(Not so good. We are accustomed to doing things that girls are not supposed to do, and our experience today suggested that this is a very safe and warm place, but there was something about his expression that led us to feel that this was not the time to push things...this time.)


Blogger BikingBakke said...

awesome tidbits of the adventure!

June 16, 2013 at 9:21:00 AM MDT  

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