Chris Crossing - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

February 9, 2014

Chris Crossing

HIS INSTRUCTIONS of how to get there are spot on. I walk across the bridge to the side closest to Asia and continue to the first traffic-light, beside which should be a sign with a yellow diamante. Should be, but isn't. This final instruction on this treasure hunt seems somewhat cryptic. There is no such sign. I kind of but don't know why expected an advertising billboard. Some huge photo with some form of yellow diamante thereon. It is the right bridge I hope. The name I saw on the side of the structure when approaching the bridge on the other side of the Bosphorus, is the one in his message. And this is a place where people meet, being a wide pedestrian area below the bridge's eastern approach with cafes to the side and people hanging out.

He wrote he'd be there at 1 PM. It must be nearly that time now. I ask a passer-by what time is it, motioning by pointing at my dysfunctional watch. The man speaks little English, but understood and takes out his phone, looks at the screen and says "one, two, three, two". The last two figures pass me by and I assume the time he's told me is two minutes pass one. But then, he turns the screen so I can see. Its 12.33 now. There's still loads of time, so I take a walk around and see can I solve the final clue.

While crossing the bridge.
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While walking I mill over things. The good life and the people encountered. The old Australian guy sitting in the café the other day. He told me he's originally from Wales, but in 1966, he became a Ten Pound Immigrant to Australia. A special deal at the time in which the fare was a tenner, but it was a long sea voyage. I said, you must've been a young man then. He replies, twenty-seven. That would make him seventy-four now. A seventy-four year old backpacker. He's away most of the time. Always stays in hostels; sleeping in dorms. Tells me he was in China last year. Then done the Trans-Siberia, travelling onwards to Scandinavia and down to the UK. He's also been in a host of African countries among others. Says, he never plans anything. Just goes where the urge takes him. His next stop might be Sofia, but doesn't know for certain. The only really expensive part for him, he tells me, is the insurance. "My age yeah see, the insurance goes sky high." I know seventy-four isn't a remarkable age with ever increasing life expectancy in the west, but he is like a young man, so full of life and energy.

Back at the hostel, earlier, Is taking out a pannier from underneath the bed to get something out, when the Korean guy in the bed across from me asks "you are cyclist?" I reply yes. Then says "my father own bike shop." I ask "are you a cyclist?" I think at this point he understood me to ask something else, because he replies "I know how fix tube and adjust gears."

Hassen, the Egyptian told me he studied photography. I can believe it as he certainly knows more about using my camera than I do. He points out, I've a good enough eye for a picture, but I don't pay attention, or understand how to frame a picture. Then talks about Net and Flue. The object in sharp focus contrasting to background in varying degrees out of focus, or blurred. This I understand. But he says my lens isn't working well.

I met a girl here, a meeting which may have gone from friendship to romance if I had taken the time. But, then again, I'm leaving in a few days. That's the down-side with travelling. You meet someone and then you have to leave. In Argentina three and a half years ago, I'd a few weeks of fun with a really nice girl during a long break from cycling. Then when I set off cycling again, she was rarely off my mind for the first three weeks on the road. It was a case of wanting to leave and go on cycling, but not wanting to leave her.

This side of the Bosphorus is less touristy. One thing which gets up my nose on the other side is: I'm walking along, especially in the square by the Blue Mosque, and someone is always wanting to sell me something. They call out as I pass "hello sir! Where are you from?" Try as I will to ignore them, they sometimes follow and walk along with me as they go on to explain whatever. One day on the other side, I looked down a steep cobblestone street and thought the street would make a good photograph with the tram coming up; when, this particular salesman caught me up and began to go on and on about how I should visit his father's carpet shop. He was becoming extremely irritating. All I wanted at that moment was to take the photo. I'm not interested in carpets. I didn't tell him that, but then a vehicle moved out in the way and I missed the shot.

I see what he means by yellow diamante now, as I return to the first traffic light. Not a diamante as such, more a yellow diamante mesh pattern on a blue background little sign, not quite a billboard, mounted via a bracket to the traffic-light post, meant to indicate a pedestrian crossing.

I take a seat on a step a little way off and have a look around while I wait. And minutes later looking back, see Chris standing there waiting too.

From left to right: Dino, Chris, Suzy and Me.
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I rise and rush over to meet Chris Poulton whose journal I've followed for the pass six months. We exchange the usual greetings. He isn't quite the bubbling character I expected. Quietly spoken and a kind of elsewhere. Later in the day though his face warmed and creases in a broad smile when Is saying something about hills outside Edinburgh.

Suzy and Dino, the Brightens came along shortly. Chris met them the day before and arranged this meeting. They too have a journal here (CGOAB). The four of us spent a good hour or more sat at a table drinking tea on the nearby riverbank, talking generally about cycle-touring. When we'd enough of sitting, Chris led us along to the outdoor shops, as Dino needed to find a solution for cold hands while riding. A pair of over-mittens. Then he showed me the bike-shops, as I need brake-pads. And told us about the bike-shop he wouldn't return to because they'd overcharged him for labour. Then the day finishes with a walk back over the bridge to the other side of town, to eat in the café near the hostel I'm staying in, which Suzy and Dino recommended.

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