March 9

Yep, nightmare day.  We only managed to get to the Chinese Embassy as my Azeri visa hadn’t come through, and that didn’t work out at all.  First of all, we were told we needed a full itinerary of our time in China, along with flights and hotels showing where we were staying, as well as filled in application forms, photocopies of passports and passport photos.  I’d heard that having a letter of recommendation from the British Embassy would probably prove useful, so after finding out what we needed from the Chinese, we headed to the fortress of an embassy us Brits have in Ankara.

Well, it went poorly.  First of all, we couldn’t even get into the embassy as we didn’t have an appointment.  Obviously, the information that you needed an appointment was only on the billboard outside the embassy, and not where it should have been – on the website.  So we called up and used the emergency line to say basically ‘what the fuck is going on here?’  They told us that letters weren’t something the embassy did anymore, and for what it’s worth the Chinese probably won’t even ask for it.  That’s a lot of help.  Fingers crossed the Chinese embassy will be happy with what what we’ve got.  Considering the embassy is only open from 9-12 Mon, Tue and Fri, we don’t have a lot of time to get everything sorted – if they’re not in with the embassy by tomorrow we’re really burning through our days by staying in Ankara. 

After that, we headed back to our friend’s place to collapse.  Ten minutes after collapsing we realised that we also needed to get Ryan’s bike looked at, so we headed back into the hot Ankara sunshine and pedalled down to Uruncu Bisiklet, or Orange Bike. 

Well, they were just the loveliest people ever.  They dragged us into the shop, and the mechanic, Ahmet – an ex-Turkish national cycling team member, set to on Ryan’s bike, truing his wheel, fixing his brakes and generally transforming his bike into the beast it should be.  It took an hour or so, and so we sat and chatted with the owner, Kevser, about touring, bagpipes, cey and everything else.  At one point she told us there were kittens upstairs and I was up there in a shot, where I promptly melted into a giggling mess.  Once Ryan’s bike was sorted, I asked Ahmet to take a look at my rear brakes and it turns out I’ve already burned out my first set of pads.  I expected them to last another 1000k or so, but I guess the weight and the mountains were enough to wear them out early.  He offered to try and change them in the shop, but I had a new pair of pads at home so said I’d do it.  We took some photos and headed back to the house, having achieved quite a lot today.  Feel confident that we can drop off the Chinese and Turkmen visa applications tomorrow then hit the road.  Hopefully we’ll be able to get 100k out of the way and get to the salt lake before we camp.

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