As we were making our way over the tricky Turkish border we bumped into a couple of chaps looking even scruffier than ourselves. We introduced ourselves to Tom and Xani, a pair of Scottish students cycling from Edinburgh to Istanbul. The fact they travelled light (Xani had little more than a laptop, beard trimmer and a book of quotes) and make their money riding Rickshaws in Edinburgh meant they were monster cyclists. They were the first tourers we met who could keep up with us (actually we were keeping up with them) so we joined forces for the leg to Istanbul. It was great to have some company and it gave us some fresh impetus as we were starting to get a bit road weary. It was also fantastic to be able to chat with people who intimately understand the life of a mile hungry cycle tourer.
So we spent 2 days watching Tom and Xani disappear up the rolling hills to then trundle down past them on our heavy tandem going down again. After a much needed evening chilling in Istanbul the guys were even mad enough to get up early to ride out of Istanbul with us in the rain! We said our goodbyes thinking we were on the Asian side of Istanbul only to find that we were still well and truly in Europe!
We had a miserable morning trying to get out of Istanbul, getting hopelessly lost, ending up on motorways and even briefly finding ourselves being put on a bus to cross the Istanbul bridge. However the day ended well. While we were looking for a place to whack up our tent we were beckoned into a family’s home who let us camp in their orchard. They gave us food and water that evening and tea, bread and olives for breakfast.
Turkey continued in this vain all the way down to Silifke in the South. Fairly busy, hilly roads, making for some tough riding but delicious food and really warm helpful people. In Ankara we were guided to a bike shop by the head of the Police Academy (Aziz) and his son (Mikael). They spent a couple of hours helping us find the shop and stayed to help translate our various bike problems to the mechanic before they told us that it was Mikael’s birthday and he was now late to his party!
Our final day in Turkey proved to be one of the toughest on the road. We got up at half 4 to give ourselves plenty of time to get the 11.30 ferry to Cyprus but a puncture, scorching heat and some pretty mean hills slowed us down. We dug deep however and made it in time. Mat celebrated the accomplishment by scoffing a whole kg of Baklava.
Once in Cyprus with no maps or any idea how to get across the island we were helped out by some British teenagers holidaying in Cyprus and we were soon tucking into dinner in Nicosia. The next day we arrived at the airport early so were able to chill on the beach by the runway while waiting for our flight. Getting on the flight with Tatu was touch and go to say the least (think useless staff, a very angry Tim and trying to bubble wrap a tandem). But eventually the 3 of us were airborne and on our way to Africa.