DIRE: Someone or Something to Show The Way - Lookin For John Fairweather - CycleBlaze

January 28, 2014

DIRE: Someone or Something to Show The Way

WITH THE RECENT RAIN, a thin coating of dust which has built up on the side of the road has turn to a film of filthy sloop: a sandy liquid mud that spews up all over the bottom of the bike: all over the drive-train, making the chain feel like a length of rusty wire and pedalling hard going.

And I can do without anything making it harder at the moment. The road is hilly and its been a battle against cold crosswind most of the time since Sunday. It feels as though its been uphill the whole way and this last couple of evenings my legs have had that burning fatigue which says it is time for a rest day.

Cleaning the bike in the morning before setting off.
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An hour later.
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I had cleaned it earlier, remember.
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Today the wind has settled and the sky is looking less threatening. But there's still a long hill ahead of me and it's a mammoth task pedalling with the sandy sloop clogging up the chain, so I get off and get the rag out and clean it for the second time this morning, knowing it won't remain clean for long.

It has been a slow start today because there was still the rough shoulder and parts with no shoulder, but presently the smooth lane-wide shoulder has returned.

This hill goes on and on and there's a tower with a bulb on top at the summit which on getting closer, looks to be a restaurant, high up there with a panoramic view far and wide.

About now I'm beginning to see Ataturk airport arrowed ahead on overhead gantries. Two other journal contributors on CGOAB, David Holmes and Ben Rowland mention getting off the highway just before the airport and following the signs for Yesilcay, leading to the coast and a nice neighbourhood with a cycle-path all the way into Sultanahmet. I bet David had his GPS switched on that day to show the way. Or maybe not. Could've been just good intuition. I on the other hand don't even have a local map, just the one for the whole of Europe and so, have no idea how far remains to the city-centre. I think it's twenty-five kilometres because there was a sign Istanbul 30 km a little back. There's a few lanes of service road to the side now with cars pulling out in front of me. The drivers by the look on their faces seem shocked to see a bicycle. And the micro-buses would drive over you if you don't get out of their way quick enough. Further on there are two-lane slip-roads coming in on the right with steady fast traffic entering, making it difficult regaining the inside. Still there's the airport arrowed straight on. Then there's a place spelled Yasi... something and assuming Ben may've misspelled it; that it may, just be the one.

Side view.
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The turn off follows along a busy shopping street, then along a quiet avenue with a forest of high-rises either side. The way curve round, when uphill then sweeps down into a valley with urban sprawl and high-rises on the hills all around with no sighting of the coast anywhere. Then of course there's a steep slope to ride up rising out of the valley. I take my camera out to take a photo and two guys on the opposite side shout angrily across at me. One gesturing with a raised hand that they don't like me taking photos.

I took a detour; trying to make it to the coast which other CGOABer have done, but with all the hills I lost my bearing and got horribly lost.
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On crossing over the hill, there's a great roundabout in the bottom of the next valley with a fountain in the middle and yet more high-rises on the hilltops all around. Eventually getting through this, I pick up a red painted pavement path a metre wide. Supposedly a cycle-path but there isn't any cyclists to be seen. This path after a bit goes up a long steep hill, up through a busy shopping street. I'm feeling done and luckily at that point I'm passing an eating place with scooter-delivery-drivers coming and going.

Lunch is enjoyable: beef stew but the main thing isn't the chunks of beef, its the succulent green beans and black mushrooms. Together with rice and a kind of nam-bread followed by tea, I'm ready to go again and find the way. The street climbs for almost another kilometre, then levels out on a plateau and a long serious of long straight streets follows through industrial estates at which point the sun come out and shows I'm heading north when really, I should be going in either a southern or easterly direction. Eventually as expected, the way leads back to the highway. Not the one I came off before, but the motorway and after riding down the on-slip, it's a shock to pass a sign: ISTANBUL 28 KM. I've basically ridden around in a circle the last hour and half gaining nothing.

I finally decide to take the motorway.
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Another side.
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The sky lightened a bit.
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Well I thought the motorway would've been the best option, to take me straight into the centre and wish I had thought of this earlier before going on that useless detour. There is another sign: Istanbul 20 km, thereafter all the signs are for Ankara and local places, so I'm just as lost; not knowing where to exit for the centre. I do about another dozen kilometres and turn off for a district, assuming I'm close, and cycle along a commercial shopping street with metro-stations at regular intervals in a central reservation. Though, up until now through Eastern Europe, it was easy to ask some one young for directions and be assured they'd speak some English. But the likelihood of stopping someone in Turkey that may just speak English seems slim. I try any way. I enter an electrical goods shop. The young vailed female sales-person speaks a little, a very little. I spread my arms and demonstrate a circle with one hand going round clockwise, the other anti-clockwise saying Istanbul and then pointing in the middle of the thin-air circle and saying centre. She understands. She points me left from the shop front, further along the street, which then goes down an extremely steep hill. At the bottom there's an old town with pedestrianized streets, a huge mosque and lots of cafes and restaurants.

I ask in a glass panelled tourist office in the middle of a square, is this the centre. The young woman behind the desk replies "It was the center of Istanbul in Ottoman times, but not any more." My next question is "Where is Sultanmohamet?" She tells me it's a long way, pointing it out on the map, it looks to be almost the other side of town. She tells me it's eight kilometres, but as we're at the river and Sultanmohamet is near the river too, it shouldn't be hard to navigate the way.

Outside I'm feeling almost too tire to ride there and consider re-entering and enquiring about accommodation in this part of town. I do but all the hotels are expensive, so come back out and set off for the river. I cruise with the traffic on the riverside avenue and reach the required location according to the map just by nightfall. There is another huge mosque and pedestrianized square with lots of bazars in arcades to the side. I'm not sure where to go and ask a few people but either it's my accent or my mouth is dry and voice croaky, no one understands when I say "Sultanmohamet!" But soon I see brown signs for Sultanmohamet which lead up a steep hill.

I make it most of the way up when the hill become steeper, so get off and push the remainder to where it enters a busy shopping street and still have no idea where I am. Then turning a corner spot a Starbucks.

During the day I'd to stop a few times to clear, using a stick, black gunge building up and blocked between the rear wheel and mudguard, now as I put the kick-stand down outside the Starbucks coffee shop, I notice the stays running back to the bottom of the mudguard have separated at the eyelet and are hanging down.

In the coffee shop I open my netbook to search for a hostel, but on connecting to a network, get a landing page which requires a phone number which I do not have. And then taking the top of my Americano, find there's no milk in it. I'm about to lose my temper.

Later as I push the bike on from the coffee shop, I enter a street of hotels, but checking a few, find they're pricy. Then passing a travel company, who if any one should know where there is a hostel as many of their clients will stay in such accommodation, where I enter and the young man behind the desk kindly interrupts his telephone call to direct me to a hostel further down the hill.

surrounded by beds
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Today's ride: 79 km (49 miles)
Total: 10,312 km (6,404 miles)

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