January 28

Soggy start to the day today.  After the rains of the past few days, the ground pretty much everywhere feels like a wet sponge, so we were squelching around the campground this morning.  For some reason the groundsheet inside the tent kept getting wet, but I couldn’t figure out why.  A depressing breakfast, standing in the chilly greyness by the side of the main road, of nutella on damp bread and a particularly cold orange. 

After an hours cycling however, we were warmed up, and since we were only ten kilometres from the Turkish border, decided to stop for a last taste of Greece which consisted of Wifi and a chocolate bar.  Once we got to the border, we were able to move through pretty quickly, with me having to fold my laptop through the guards tiny window so he could see my visa. Seconds after I get my stamp and I’m on my way into Turkey, he calls me back and asks to take a look at the E-Visa again, which puzzles me.  He points out that we’d got our visas to start from the 31st of January – the day we intended to be entering Istanbul.  Obviously, Turkey starts before Istanbul (to the tune of about 300km) so I’ve no idea why I decided that was the right date, but this meant we needed to go get a new visa.  A visit to a nearby ATM and 80 Turkish Lira later, we were on our way into Turkey proper.

The first few miles in Turkey were pretty flat, which was reassuring, but then we got into a series of small, rolling hills which I imagine continue until we get to Tekirdag.  We were making good time through them until we hit Kesan, where the hill leaving town was an absolute monster.  That big bugger, coupled with a pretty persistent headwind, meant that we slowed down quite a lot, but still managed to make over 100k today, leaving Istanbul less than 200 away.  Some of the gradients on the Turkish hills were pretty steep as well, meaning climbing left you knackered, but it was the descents that made it all a bit hairy. 

As you ride down these steep hills, there are some pretty big lorries cannoning past you two feet to your left.  You’re riding into a strong headwind, which is forcing you to constantly correct your balance at 30km/h.  As the truck passes you, it’s going so fast a wind pushes you from behind for a couple of metres and then suddenly the headwind strikes you again.  The constant balance checking means that by the end of the descent, you’re almost as exhausted as from climbing, but it is a damn sight quicker at least.

Turkey so far has been enjoyable – beautiful rolling hills and a decent sized shoulder for the most part.  The road quality is quite consistently good, but the shoulder can be very changeable – in some places excellent quality then in others it can be down to a bumpy dirt track, which can make for challenging cycling.  Already the dogs here seem more threatening than in Greece, with two dogs coming far closer and acting far more aggressively than we’ve had so far.  Another strong point in Turkey’s favour is the Cey (tea) which is served black, in small glasses, and costs about 35p with as many refills as you fancy.  Great to warm up and get some sugar in.  We’re camped up tonight five metres away from a petrol station at the top of a hill, which is about 20m away from the main road – noisy and bright, but at least it’s not too soggy and should have an easy start tomorrow.   Should make it to near Sivirla tomorrow and from there we’ll hug the coast to enter Istanbul, keeping us from the horrors of the renowned – at least among cycle tourists – D100, an 8-lane behemoth that spews you out in the centre of Istanbul. 

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