We arrived in Artvin after a tough climb winding up the steep hill. Our Couchsurfer host of course lived at the very top! After being welcomed into the home of Murat and his family we were treated to delicious home cooked meal by his lovely wife and full Turkish breakfasts every morning. We tried to contribute by offering Italian coffee from our Bialetti coffee machine but this didn’t go down too well with the tea loving family. That weekend was the famous Kafkasor festival where they have bull fights in a specially designed arena which is only used once a year for this purpose. We visited the festival and spent all day there watching with a lot of anticipation for some action. (The bulls did not want to fight as it wasn’t rutting season so were mostly stubborn and just stared at each other) The majority of the time it was called off due to lack of fighting and there was no blood or real fighting. We had a relaxing few days seeing the sights and even had time for a beer at the top of the ski centre close by.
Our plans had changed slightly due to us both hearing the news of jobs in China. As we had both signed contracts, we needed to get a medical from a hospital which would include a chest x-ray, HIV test, blood tests and an ECG. We had to go to a large hospital so this was how we decided to go to Trabzon. We had been told it was a nice city to visit so we hitched a ride in a large lorry all the way and with the help of Rhiannon found a cheap hotel. We booked into the Benli hotel (we were a little unsure as it was so cheap 35TL a night for both of us) and had a look round the city which was surprisingly more European than the rest of Turkey. It felt a little like staying at Faulty Towers, the light switch was outside the room and there were a few strange characters hanging around (see below). A cycle touring couple turned up and they said there were no rooms but said they were welcome to put their tent on a balcony of someone else’s room.
The hospital visit -thanks to Elif the helpful translator- was very uneventful and within two hours we had a blood test, x-ray, ECG and had seen the doctor, all for the small price of about £30 each. Jimi found out he has a rare blood type and will be donating his blood at every opportunity.
No matter how much I try, I can never escape football. Luckily for Jimi there just so happened to be the FIFA under 20′s football World Cup happening in Turkey and on this night there was a match in Ankara. South Korea and Columbia were playing not far from the hotel so we bought our tickets and roped in a couple of other cycle tourers from America. Jimi bumped into a South Korean tourist who came along as well. It was a great football match even from a non-football fan like myself. It went on to extra time and penalties (of which there were 7 each) and we left the stadium after midnight when South Korea had won. By the way, the player above number 10 Quintero is one to watch or buy on Championship Manager.
We cycled a few days along the Black Sea Coast which was up and down, we stopped off to see Sumela temple which to be honest looked better on the postcards than it did inside. We met another cyclist called Hassan who we cycled for a few days with and it turned out that he had met some of the same people we had met in Antalya earlier in the year (Robin and Crystal).
Camping with Graham and the arrival of an ambulance.
We arrived at Sinop late at night and decided on a little campsite a few kilometers from the town. We were looking forward to camping a night or two for a rest but we didn’t expect the campsite to be quite so peaceful and relaxing. We pitched up, skipped dinner, had a few beers and nuts and slept well. We awoke to the beauty of the black sea and were right next to the beach, there was a hammock next to the tent and everything was lovely.
We met a fellow traveler from the UK who was on a motorbike and we instantly became friends. Our little break turned into a 4 night holiday and we had a ‘right good laf’ and enjoyed Graham’s company. He’s a veteran traveller and we all enjoyed telling funny and embarrassing stories. He’s even written a book if any of you fancy a read - In Search of Greener Grass by Graham Fields.
We were sitting around having some beers when an ambulance pulled up and two Norwegan men were driving it. They were heading to Tajikistan to deliver the ambulance they had bought and donate it to them for charity. They shared a van full of booze with us as they were going to Iran and worried the van would be searched. Here we are doing our bad boy band impression.
An embarrassing accident.
There are times when cycle touring that unfortunate incidents cannot be avoided and this was such a time. We both must have had some bad water from a fountain along the black sea coast. As we settled in the tent for the night on the beach (the only suitable place for miles) thinking we were in a for a peaceful sleep with the waves lapping behind us and the sound of seagulls. We were wrong and this lovely beach spot turned into an all night party. The little tea hut turned into the place to be and awful pop music blared out all night long with people coming and going in a boy racer style fashion all night. It didn’t help that the bad water turned to bad stomachs and we both had to keep dashing out of the tent in the night to relieve our poorly tummies. I had not recovered by the next day and whilst cycling up a hill stopped for a rest and then did the unthinkable (I will let you work it out for yourself) but a very embarrassing moment at which I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry…so I cried, a bit. I managed to sort myself out in between passing cars and a nearby broken down truck with the help of Jimi not knowing whether to laugh, or laugh. I thought I’d tell the story as its funny and embarrassing, but these things happen to the best of us.
NO PHOTO AVAILABLE
Throughout this trip we have only had 7 weeks so on more than one occasion we have hitched a lift by a passing lorry. The first was a novel experience as we covered the same distance in a few hours that would normally take us days on end. After the first few times however we got more comfortable and Jimi would even lay on the bed at the back and have a snooze for a few hours!
One such time we hitched and the driver said I’m not going where you want to go but I’m going to Bursa today. “Ok we said Bursa it is then”. This is how quickly plans can change when cycle touring, and even more quickly when hitching. Off we set to Bursa a good 400KM away knowing we would get there a little after dark. We checked our trusty Rough Guide and found a cheap hotel and booked in. The driver then stopped 25KM form Bursa and said ‘I’m not going any further so you will have to cycle the rest.’ Or the equivalent of that in Turkish that we roughly translated. Our Turkish has improved greatly and we can now have conversations about a variety of mundane topics- eg. “it’s too hot today”.
Ramazan and Iftar meals.
We arrived in Bursa just before the Iftar meal in the evening. It was Ramazan so Muslims fast all day and then eat at sunset, this was around 8:30pm. We watched, fascinated as the tables were set and hundreds of people sat around waiting to eat the feast. As soon as the call to prayer came from the mosque everyone tucked into their feasts hungrily. We later joined them for Iskender/ Bursa kebab and Ayran on the streets and it was nice to experience this with the locals. But the best meal of the trip had to be with our friends in Ankara, below is the best Muglama chef in town with happy customers
A fun week in Istanbul
The next day we cycled to the ferry port and got on the ferry across to Istanbul which would be our final destination by bike and our home for the next week. As we arrived and were cycling along the coast to cross the Glata Bridge, a school of dolphins danced playfully in the Bosphorous welcoming us to this beautiful city.
A week was spent being guided round the dance spots, beaches and drinking holes of Istanbul. We cycled to the top of Çamlıca Mah and saw the whole of Istanbul, I visited a beautiful peaceful beach with Rhiannon’s friend Brenden and it was hard to believe we were still in Istanbul at all. We didn’t experience any trouble at all but saw the aftermath of the demonstrations and still many riot police and water cannons dotted round the city.
More trouble with the police.
After a busy and entertaining week in Istanbul we got to the airport ready for our three week break in England. This is Rosy and Jim so things weren’t as simple as first thought, I mean how hard can it be to get to the airport, get a plane and arrive home?
As we crossed the border control we were stopped and taken through to the police room and told in an angry and shouty manner that we had outstayed our visa and we were to be fined and banned from the country. We tried to explain we had a valid tourist visa which we bought when we entered in June but they would not listen to us. They said pay the fine or you will be banned for 5 years. We paid the measly 38 TL (about £15) and they made us sign a form saying we were banned for 4 weeks. This could have been fine if we were leaving the country all together but we have a flight booked to Istanbul in 3 weeks where all our belongings are, then 2 days later a flight to our jobs in China. The police didn’t seem to care in the slightest and they would not let us either call the British Embassy or anyone else for that matter.
The senior police officer then spoke to us a little calmer in English and explained you cannot have a residence permit and visa at the same time so one was invalid. He said we can go to the Embassy in London and they can grant us an emergency two day visa to get back in.
As soon as we arrived in London we went to the Embassy and they said this would not be possible but a very kind lady helped us and applied for this visa but said it could take 6 weeks and we may not get it at all but said if someone was in Turkey they may be able to help us.
Off we went a little deflated and unsure of the next moves, this would need a lot of sorting out and decision making about what to do next.
London was fab, Me and Jimi met up with a few friends and then stayed the lovely Jess and Jamie’s for the night, treated to a delicious dinner and bottle of red and a nice catch up. I then met with Mina, Harri and Jemma who I had not seen in a while and we had a day on the river front and then met Matt in Camden. I realise how much effort it takes to get around London and there are so many things to see and do, two days was not enough with my lovely friends.
Secret Garden Party fun.
We jumped on Rhiannon’s band wagon when she said she was the artist liaison manager at a festival. This sounded like a good plan, working a ‘few’ hours, getting festival tickets, food, drink and listening to a bit of music on a sunny weekend. We sorted our transport from London and Jimi left a day earlier with Jamie which in turn saw him in fancy dress in a shiny cape, ‘dancing’ the night away with Jamie and his pals! We arrived at the beautiful site and were soon hard at work. I got the job of driving the golf buggy around transporting the artists to their stages. One of these journeys included a band of ten piled on the back of the buggy singing follow the leader, leader leader. Jump and wave and jump and wave! Big up Rose! I wouldn’t say it’s the worst job I’ve ever had. Jimi meanwhile was in charge of the radio, co-coordinating us around the site and ensuring these sometimes demanding, but mostly lovely artists got to where they needed to be in time for their slot on stage.
One of my personal highlights was standing on the stage in from of around 10,000 people awaiting the start of the paint fight then taking photos whilst keeping clean and paint free. I enjoyed being able to go backstage and see what goes on behind the scenes at a festival. It was a pleasant weekend and I will certainly consider doing more work at festivals in the future.
A comfy bed at last, even if it was only for two nights.
After a busy week and long hectic weekend at the festival me and Jimi were grateful of a very comfy bed, a delicious dinner and an early night at Aunt Gillys in Cambridge. We had time to rest and catch up with Jess, Isla, Sam and Gilly before another busy week of wedding prep before the big day. Gilly kindly drove us to Norfolk where all the family were waiting, even my mum and Mads drove down for a few day’s to see us with baby Ruby. We spend the next few days making decorations, testing the real ale, flower arranging, cooking food, wrapping cutlery and everything else that planning your own wedding entails. We were all in bed by 9 every night tired out after all the hard work and ‘Lewis duty’ we had all been assigned on the rota. It was a pleasure to be entertained by Lewis and Mickayla all week but they sure know how to tire us out.
There were a few minor incidents of panic, when the beer had not arrived, the marquee people were late, the sound system or flowers had not arrived and then all the electrics blew! By Friday night Izzy was close to losing the plot and we were all in bed at a reasonable time.
What a day! We had a wonderful wedding which was perfect in every way and we all had a lot of fun, dancing playing games and catching up with family and friends. Here is a shot of the wedding crew.
This blog was supposed to be posted a long time ago so will now include a little bit about the last three weeks in the UK. We have had time to catch up with a lot of friends and family and have been to baby Rubys naming day, Jimi even managed to get 600km cycling done on an old Puch racer (most of it with big little bro Jake), a volleyball tournement at Aunty Bev’s and a really good catch up with friends in Shrewsbury.
We have finally sorted the visa situation. Our Chinese Visas were delayed and we had to rearrange our flights anyway at our employers expense. We will now fly to China on Saturday 25th after a stop in Istanbul (if they let us in) to pick up our stuff and then start work the next day. Its all very exciting and we are both looking forward to our new adventure. We feel EXCITED and PENSIVE as our photos here accurately depict…..