Istanbul - Yalova - Yeniçaga ... 18/07 - 21/07
The 4th person in our room, a Brasilian girl, snores a lot. The only times we can sleep is when Benoît shakes the bed so that she changes position! But just before dawn, the muezzin starts praying and 1/2h later, the alarm clock rings ...
This morning we take the boat for Yalova, our first asiatic city of the trip. For Benoît, it is the first time he sets foot in Asia! We are all a bit anxious, are we going to cycle at the same pace?
The first 2 days, the road is flat and we keep up with Benoît. We have lunch in a lokanta, a small canteen, on the side of the road. We will find this type of food again and again: köfte, grilled meatballs; pilav, rice or boulgour cooked in butter; çorba, lentil soup; shish tavuk, grilled chicken; green beans or aubergine. It´s the same ceremony for each meal: we look at the meals kept warm in big metallic buckets and we choose according to the prices (we try to keep it down to 6-7 euros for two). Once sat, a waiter brings plates, cutlery and a big box of bread on which we jump with avidity! The soup is often served with a slice of lemon and we dip a lot of bread in it ... This is more a cyclist custom than a turkish one! Lunch ends with çay served in small glasses with some sugar. Sometimes a refreshing salad of cucumbers and tomatoes or some watermelon is offered by the house. If a plate is brought without us asking, it´s free.
The first 2 days are not much fun: the traffic is very heavy, horns honk loudly and we have lost of our fitness in 2 weeks! Luckily the side on the road is wide enough to call it a cycling path! It is actually much safer than our national roads. Except when find a motorcycle, a tractor or even a car coming our way. The road is split in 2 by a big barrier and there are not many crossings. It´s very dangerous for pedestrians, no one would imagine crossing a highway in Europe!
On the 1st evening, we have dinner in a lokanta. We have asked Benoît to teach us how to camp rough but this is too tempting, there is a lot of grass behind the restaurant and the boss is ok for us to sleep here! We can finally try our new tent, a Marmot Nusku we bought in Istanbul. We found our previous tent was not meeting our needs so we changed it. We are like 2 kids with their Christmas present! Benoît is blasé, he has been using his tent for 6 years. And he is twice as efficient as us even though we are two!
Sheep cheese, black olives, boiled eggs, bread and honey ... it´s the kahvalti, the turkish breakfast. Quite a change from nutella and muesli but good for cycling.
We had already noticed the kindness of the Turks but today is special. There are a lot of patrol stati ns on the road 100, they are our oases. Benoît is waiting for us after a slight uphill. We must look very tired because the guy from the patrol station runs towards us with glasses of cherry juice! We like it so much, he fills up all our bottles! There must be a big tank of cherry juice somewhere at the back ...
We want to buy some cakes but they are way too expensive. We think the baker doesn´t want to sell to us and we leave gutted and hungry. But a kid runs after us with a simit (a ring of bread coated in sesame seeds). Maybe it´s a gift of the old lady in the shop ... One simit for 3 is not much so we stop again for baklava. There they also offer us some delicious helva and boxes of tissues!
First night of camping rough. Benoît finds a great spot between some hazelnut trees. We sleep like babies!
The next day, difficulties start. The first 30 km are only going up of 1% but we already slow down: Sylvie does 16 km/h and Ben even less (the trailer he says!). Benoît goes fast and have a siesta while waiting for us! We start the "uphill of Bolu" (all the Turks we meet know it) just after lunch. According to Benoît´s calculations, it should only last 9km at 6% in average. But after 1km, Sylvie is dying! We left at the worst time, 1pm, temperature is at least 40C and we just had lunch... Beginners! Benoît said he would wait for us at the top but seeing the slopes(some at 10%) he kindly waits for us at the 1st patrol station. Good idea because we were a bit depressed. We cool down with some water on the face and the t-shirts and wait an hour before starting again. It´s good we are 3, we talk, we laugh, it´s fun! We take 3h to reach the 900m pass. We are much slower than Benoît, partly because he has been cycling for 20 years and us, for only 3 months. But also, we think, because of the recumbents. Other people also said they were slower when going uphill. We are then rewarded by a 20km downhill! We beat our previous records: 62km/h for Ben and 59.5 for Sylvie. Benoît has to pedal fast this time! Looking for a place to sleep, Benoît takes us up a 14% slope, he really wants to kill us! But we find a place with a great view over the valley. Sylvie suggests we sleep outside and Benoît agrees. Ben is less sure: "what if it rains ...". True, the next day the sleeping bags are a bit wet because of the dew but sleeping under the stars was great! We wait lazily in the sleeping bags until the fog leaves the valley ... We are having breakfast when a tractor stops and a farmer comes towards us with a big tool ... what´s the punishment for camping rough in Turkey?? He only wants to check we leave the place clean ... Phew ...
Today is difficult for both of us but not for Benoît! We stop at a hotel at noon for some rest and some washing! We are all a bit sad, tomorrow we split up, we are not fast enough and Benoît is impatient to move on. That´s where we realise, not only do you need the same pace but also the same way of travelling to cycle together. We don´t mind going slowly (we don´t have the choice!) and stopping a few days. But Benoît is motivated by speed and distances, a more sportive approach.