Day 1 - Istanbul to Kemerburgaz: Why, oh why, didn't I start in Holland? - No More Taxi Drivers - CycleBlaze

January 16, 2015

Day 1 - Istanbul to Kemerburgaz: Why, oh why, didn't I start in Holland?

The good news is that everything is going according to plan: I was expecting the first two weeks to be brutal. Day 1 did not disappoint.

It started innocently enough with a last minute run to Delta Bisiklet (they were great, especially considering I didn't buy my bike from them) to get an uncooperative front rack mounted and buy a handlebar bag. I just made the 11:45 ferry to Bestiktas, which at least got me to Europe, if still in the heart of Istanbul. The road north along the Bosphorous was scenic and flat, but, to put it nicely, traffic conditions were less than ideal. It could have been worse--at least Istanbul drivers are far more courteous than the maniacs they're assumed to be--but I was very happy to turn inland.

At least for the first 30 metres. Then I rounded a bend and saw an insanely steep road like a wall in front of me. Yeah, that was bike pushing time, and just a taste of things to come, because my legs were already gone from attempting to pedal up that first hill. I was too tired to even make it up the small hills on the bike. Much pushing, many breaks. And barely any distance travelled.

By the time I was on a road through a natural area (scary busy with no shoulder--I cannot recommend this route), it was time to start looking for a campsite. My late start meant I ran out of daylight pretty quickly. I immediately realized a drawback of winter touring is that I'd be visible just about anywhere I could drag the bike off the road. There were plenty of picnic areas, but they were all fenced in, very regulated. Eventually I saw private land that looked good, so I asked if I could camp, and they gave me a bed in an outbuilding instead. And fed me dinner. And invited me to live with them. The wife spoke a few words of English. The husband named me Fatma, but since I already have a name, I shall bestow it on my bicycle. They told me I should keep my money with me; I assumed the reason they gave me meant something like teenagers or thieves. But it turned out it meant chew-happy puppies, and they decided all my gear should be put safely inside.

Which was when I discovered I don't like lifting my loaded bike, nor am I capable of lifting it over something unassisted. At least with all the pushing, pulling, and steadying the bike, I'm getting an upper body workout. Also, I've discovered it's a challenge to get a tired leg over the top tube with all that gear in the way. This is going to be harder than I thought. But meeting people like the couple who gave me a bed for the night will make it all worthwhile.

One last morale-booster: I unfortunately looked at my map more closely. There are no detailed maps of Turkey, but the one I have is detailed enough to let me know that my chosen route, the D020, crosses every single river between here and Bulgaria. If today was any indication, this is probably going to kill me. I'm pretty sure they don't make gears low enough for me; even if they did, I can't go any slower and still keep the bike upright.

Aqueduct on the road to Kemerburgaz
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Today's ride: 30 km (19 miles)
Total: 30 km (19 miles)

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