Details of our homecoming

Bonjour!

As we begin to cycle our last 400km on foreign soil our thoughts are turning to our return to Blighty. We will be setting sail for Plymouth on 16 March, docking at 1.30pm. We will be spending a few days down there before we cycle the final leg to London.

On 29 March we will be leaving Hampton Court Palace at 10am to cycle along the Thames to Westminster and then to Penge for a PARTY at 2pm!

If anybody would like to cycle the last section from Hampton Court Palace you are more than welcome. It would be smashing to catch up with friends, old and new, so if you would like to join us at the party, we cannot tell you how excited we would be to see you there. Send us a message for more details.

See you soon!

Kat and Steve xxxx

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Amici in bici (cycling friends)

I know I am not the only one who has spent the past 20 odd months avidly following Steve and Kat’s adventures on their journey back from New Zealand so you can imagine how excited James and I were to spend a week catching up with them in Italy.

We’ve never done any cycle touring before as I’ve always said I’d go cycling OR camping but never both together. If ever there was a time to break this rule camping in January didn’t seem like it, but then again I am stubborn and I had decided that we were going to join in the fun and make the most of our time together. I’m so glad we did because we had so many lovely relaxed conversations over meals in the campsites that we would have missed out on otherwise.

I am a bit of a planner and the packing spreadsheet was getting progressively longer when we got word from Steve and Kat that they arrived in Naples. A few days later with the checklist ticked off and the bags packed we were on our way to join them!

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Kat and Hooch in front of the Royal Palace of Naples

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Packed and heading to the airport

Pirates & Pizza in Pozzuoli

Steve & Kat met us at Naples airport after stopping to help a fellow cyclist en route who had come off his bike in a busy tunnel and was trying to flag down cars with a broken arm. We’d arranged to pick up some hire bikes at the airport and although that didn’t exactly go to plan (one of the bikes had a broken rear axle!) it really didn’t matter because we worked it out between us – Steve & Kat pulled our trailer across the city and up the hill to the campsite in Pozzuoli and we got a lift from the bike hire bloke. By the time were all re-united we’d managed to pitch our randomly similar tent in the beautiful surroundings of the Solfatara volcano. Thankfully it is long dormant but that didn’t stop me from having dreams about the crater suddenly exploding or opening up like something out of a Bond movie!

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Camping in the crater of the Solfatara volcano

As you might expect the campsite was pretty quiet. The cafe was closed for the winter so we thought they wouldn’t mind if we pinched a few tables and chairs to make our little pitch home. Kat lit the scented candle her Mum had given her at Christmas, Steve got his petrol stove going and we had a delicious dinner of spaghetti bolognese with fresh Italian pasta and buckets of Grand Padano. Once the wine started flowing it didn’t take too long before I asked if I could have a game of ‘What Can You Hide in Steve’s Beard?’
The best thing was definitely the Cravendale pirate…

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Avast me hearties!

The next morning we woke to the distinctive whirr of the stove which could only mean one thing; time for Steve’s campsite cappuccino, or Campuccino as it’s now known. Over the course of their trip they have honed their campsite cooking skills and it would be rude not to start the day the Italian way with some proper good coffee. Gently heating the milk in a bottle and giving it a good shake made the perfect frothy base for the shot of espresso that was added to it from the coffee engine. Good times!

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Waiting for the first Campuccino of the morning

We thought we’d be silly not to check out the campsite’s sauna, heated naturally by the volcano. It is certainly an experience that will stick in our minds for years to come… Not quite the holistic experience that might be offered by luxury spas, we managed about 5 minutes sat in the damp sulphury (= eggy!) cupboard that passed as the sauna before deciding we were too cold to stick it out any longer. Time to shower, change and check out the rest of the volcanic sights on offer.
Listed as one of the 40 thermae of the Phlegreaen Fields, Solfatara is found in quiet countryside away from the hustle and bustle of central Naples making it a popular tourist destination. We chose it because it is one of the few campsites open in winter but generally people come to see the vapour rushing out of the fumeroles at high pressure and the bubbling pools of mud. Wikipedia tells me that the name comes from the Latin Sulpha terra meaning “land of sulphur” or “sulphur earth” and apparently the vapours have been used for medical purposes since Roman times. The volcano itself was formed around 4000 years ago, last erupting in 1198. No need for me to worry about present day eruptions right? I was not reassured to learn that you can make the volcano rumble by dropping rocks onto the ground – eek!

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Tandem Turners on the moon! (Or just the crater of the Solfatara volcano)

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Volcanic mud

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Sulphur crystals

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Hmmm, eggy....

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Sulphur in the sunshine

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Better out than in!

One of the things I love about any trip to Italy is that you know the food is going to be delicious! We’d had a great campsite feast on our first night so we thought we’d give the chef a night off and sample some local pizza.
James has a history of making poor pizza choices when we’re abroad. Last time we ate pizza with Steve & Kat was in Santiago de Compostela after Smouty & Virginia’s wedding where James thought he had ordered a tuna pizza… turns out that aceituna means olive, one of James’ least favourite foods, and the pizza was solidly covered in them! This time it was his choice of pizza fritta ripieno giving the rest of us a bit of a giggle. Each of our pizzas arrived one by one with James’ left til last when he was presented with what looked like a massive pasty. We’ve had calzone before so no worries there but it was when he cut into it and discovered it was essentially an oddly shaped doughnut stuffed full of ricotta that he realised it was going to be another challenging pizza.

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Some quality pizza
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A pasty-shaped ricotta-filled doughnut pizza? Challenge accepted!

Enjoying our laid back day together in the January sunshine we walked down the hill into Pozzuoli for a stroll along the promenade. As the sun started to set we found ourselves a bench and took the chance to watch the world go by. There were couples walking arm in arm, families out admiring the view, the odd runner and cyclist, and some amazing rollerskating by a little girl who hadn’t quite got the hang of it yet, walking awkwardly on her little wheeled feet.

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Looking out over Pozzuoli

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Sunset over the islands of Procida & Ischia

Two Tales of Ischia

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Every sound seems amplified when you’re in a tent so what sounded like a downpour turned out to be drizzle which stopped just long enough for the obligatory Campuccino, a tasty breakfast of scrambled egg with onion, mushrooms and pancetta pieces and the chance to pack up in the dry.

This was the first time we were moving on and I don’t think I’d really appreciated the effort required to pack everything away almost daily. I suppose so much happens in the time between each blog post that Steve & Kat don’t mention the things that think of as part of the daily routine. It is amazing to see everything end up in one of the many panniers or tucked into the trailer but everything has its place. There is the kitchen pannier, the one for technology, another for warm clothes… and when Steve asks where something is Kat is able to find it in seconds.

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A packing pro

We knew there were ferries going to the islands from the harbour so it was just a case of rolling down the hill and getting tickets in time. After a few spots of rain the heavens opened but with tickets in hand and a massive ferry in sight we joined the queue of cars hoping that we’d be on board soon enough. Half an hour later we were pretty soaked and still waiting. People kept gesturing to take the bikes to the front like the foot passengers we’d seen pass us by but with several boats tied up along the harbourside one false move with a fully loaded tandem could have made one very big splash.

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Soggy but smiling!

Once we’d made it onto the ferry we were so wet that we weren’t really warming up much. The initial plan had been to ride across the island and find the only campsite that was open in winter but after reading that they charged a fee for bikes Kat got to thinking about other options… A bit of searching found that since it was low season there were hotel rooms that were literally two or three Euros more than what we would have paid to camp. A roof over our heads, a chance to dry everything out and breakfast included… What’s not to like?

Once we reached Ischia we knew we needed to cycle from the port to the hotel but with no let up in the weather we managed about half an hour before we decided to stop and refuel. Spotting a pizza bar we sheltered from the rain and enjoyed some of the largest slices I’ve ever seen. With just a little further to go we were soon at the hotel and after using the free WiFi to make our reservations at the bargain online price we were checked in and drip drying our clothes on all available furniture. Another perk of the hotel was the thermal spa pool, steam room and sauna (not an eggy whiff to be sniffed!) so it wasn’t long before we were all warmed up and ready to find something for dinner. With all the essentials – wine, crisps, bread, salami and cheese – we put some tunes on and chatted into the early hours of the morning toasting Kat’s ingenuity with some local Limoncello.

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Dried out and warmed up in our bargaintastic hotel

The Sun Has Got His Hat On

We took full advantage of a complimentary breakfast and feasted on cold meats, cheese and lots of sweet treats before heading out to explore the island. Greeted with glorious sunshine everything looked so different and there was no need to load the bikes since we’d decided it was such a good deal we’d stay second night.

Even though we’d seen the silhouette of the islands as we’d watched the sun go down in Pozzuoli I hadn’t quite twigged how hilly it was going to be. It was at this point that James reminded me Ischia is a volcanic island so it was likely to be a bit lumpy!

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The island's volcanic landscape

Riding across the island was another insight into the harmony of the Tandem Turners. After initially thinking he was saying it for the benefit of me & James I realised that Steve was counting down “3, 2, 1” before we set off so that he and Kat were in sync. Then there were the calls of “up” or “down” before the gear changes so they were both knew what was coming. Watching them go sailing off down the hill on Hooch was something special although it was coupled with a small amount of terror since we weren’t sure the brakes on our hire bikes were going to offer much in the way of stopping.

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Checking out Castle Aragonese under blue skies

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The pretty streets of Ischia

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Hills climbed, time for a beer!

Yesterday’s rain seemed like a distant memory after an afternoon cycling with the sun on our faces and being able to sit outside enjoying a beer together. We reaped the benefits of all the climbing too since it was downhill almost all the way back for another dip in the pool. Although I had tried to keep it under my hat it was my birthday while we were in Italy and Kat very thoughtfully surprised me back at the hotel by setting up a little table of treats (and a particularly good sketch on the wrapping paper) in their room before we headed out for some dinner.

A lot of the dog encounters that Steve & Kat have had along the way have been pretty hairy (bad pun!) leading to the various ways they have tried to keep them at bay: Kat’s pocket full of stones, the thing that emitted high-pitched sounds or most recently the dog stick. When a few stray looking dogs started following us down the street I was a bit wary… Turns out that one particular dog was actually quite the charmer. Once we’d found a local pizzeria that was open we thought we would be able to sneak in and leave the dog outside but he had other ideas. In true cartoon fashion he ran through the gap in my legs and into the warmth of the restaurant before I was even through the door. After a few attempts at coaxing him out, and then Steve trying to drag him out, a very kind waiter came over and said “It’s okay, your dog can stay inside!” at which point I sheepishly explained it wasn’t mine. It was at this point that the dog trotted off to the kitchen, wagging his tail as he went! When we asked what had become of the dog the waiter told us that he was warming himself by the cooker since it was so cold outside. That gives you a bit of an idea of what a friendly place it was. We were treated to an extra couple of courses which we initially thought meant our order had got muddled up (“You’re still bringing the deep-fried cheese right?”) but it was actually just their way of welcoming us to Ischia. A very memorable way to spend my birthday with good friends and good food!

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Pizza….
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Pizza...!

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And more pizza...!

Cycling With Celebrities

The next part of the plan for the week was to catch the ferry to Naples and head down to  see the ruins of Pompeii. Not a raindrop in sight, we checked out of the hotel and were straight onto the ferry. Before we knew it we were on the bumpy road to Pompei (only one ‘i’ for the modern city!) with Steve & Kat leading through the wide cobbled streets.

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A sunny ferry ride back to Naples

There was plenty to see as we rode on the bone-shaking volcanic bricks – described to us later as a gift from Vesuvius – that formed the road passing through tall buildings with washing hanging out on every balcony like jubilee bunting as we wound our way through the towns, but seeing people’s reactions to the Tandem Turners as they went by was definitely the best bit. This far into their adventure they know they are an eye-catching sight and Kat will often give people a wave as they go whizzing past but following on behind them meant that James and I had a great view of the impression they make. There were a few times we passed by a playground or park and a kid would excitedly call out to his mates “Come and have a look at this!”, pedestrians would wave and grin, passengers and drivers would crane their necks to take it all in as they overtook. One of my favourites on this route was definitely a fella who was absent-mindedly eating some crisps while waiting to cross the road. The tandem went past and he caught a glimpse as he looked up and then did a proper double take watching them ride off into the distance then looking back at the crisps as if to say “Wow, these are made from some powerful potatoes”.

A cloudy view of Vesuvius on the road to Pompeii

Stopping to check the map as we went the locals were really friendly and helpful. A well-dressed lady came up and asked us where we were headed reassuring us that we were going the right way, a bloke pulled over to tell us we were on a newly built road after seeing our puzzled faces staring at the map and a group of workmen downed tools to talk to Steve and Kat as we stopped at a junction telling us that Pompei was not much further on.
Camping Spartacus had been recommended to Steve & Kat by fellow cycle tourers that they’d met along the way and it certainly didn’t disappoint. At €10 a night we were allocated a plot nestled among the trees and told the oranges were free!

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Fresh oranges anyone?

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Little lizards basking in the sun

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Improvised tent maintenance

Settled in to our new home we searched out the local supermarket, quickening our pace past the dogs roaming around and barking at each other through fences, and prepared a hearty pasta dinner. Not sure if it was the late nights catching up on us or the fact that it was really cold but we were all tucked up in bed by 10pm!
Camping in Pompeii in the shadow of Vesuvius I did think for a split second that the klaxon that woke me in the night was the volcano alarm we’d joked about earlier in the week… Turned out to be a car alarm somewhere nearby but it still gave us a giggle over breakfast the next day.

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Breakfast at Camping Spartacus

After copying the lizards and basking in the sun for a bit after breakfast, we made some sandwiches and headed across the road to the ruins of Pompeii.
When Vesuvius erupted in 79AD the surrounding area was buried under the hot ash and pumice that fell. The ruins are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and possibly Italy’s most popular tourist destination since the lack or air and moisture meant that objects underneath the volcanic layers have been incredibly well preserved.
During the excavations over the years plaster was poured into the voids to establish where people were when they had died – quite an eerie sight (photo below).
Since it is a town frozen in time there was quite an area to navigate around. Kat was armed with their Kindle loaded with all the Lonely Planet books, including a handy section on Pompeii, and James did his best with a discarded Italian map of the site that we found. We covered quite a lot of ground having a look at the various temples, market squares and houses, and had a look at the erotic frescoes preserved on the walls of the brothel before stopping to have our packed lunch on the steps of the grand amphitheatre.

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Hat envy

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Navigating our way around Pompeii

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A plaster cast of a Pompeii citizen as well as some other artefacts from the city

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Looking towards the Amalfi Coast from Pompeii

Worn out by all our sightseeing Steve cooked us all some amazing chips back at the campsite proving once again that there is no limit what he can do on that little petrol stove. The chips were just the starter for our last dinner together as I had a go at being camp cook whipping up a mushroom risotto.
It was still pretty cold as we sat around chatting with our bellies full and the cartons of wine flowing. We even had a nightcap of Guatemalan rum to warm our cockles courtesy of a fellow Brit, another Steve, who was staying at Spartacus for a few nights during his camper-van tour around Italy.

We knew it was coming but we had reached our final day together. With the bikes loaded up we headed back to Naples with the Tandem Turners still amazing everyone along the way. The traffic was much busier since it was Saturday but that just meant there was more time for people to have a good look at Hooch and give Steve & Kat a big grin.
There were also other cyclists out on the roads. You could see the penny drop as Kat listed all the countries they had passed through and the person asking realised that they weren’t New Zealanders but rather had cycled all the way from New Zealand!

As we approached Naples we pulled in to check the map without realising we were right outside a barbers. A few well groomed blokes came over, scissors in hand, and asked if they could have a photo with Steve. They struck a comedy pose pretending to snip away at the beard cultivated over the past 2o months. Steve was smiling in the picture but later admitted to being a bit worried that they were actually going to give him an unwelcome trim!

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Our last evening together

After a final pizza together we went our separate ways: Steve & Kat headed back to Solfatara for the night before starting their journey to Rome and James and I to a hotel by the airport ready to fly back to Gatwick the next morning.

The week went by too fast but as the saying goes time flies when you’re having fun and it as so lovely to catch up: our cycling time is represented by the little squiggle on the Where Are Tandem Turners map and I have had the opportunity to write this guest blog and share the memories made with you all.

The only thing left for me to say is: Steve & Kat you are both utterly brilliant and we are all with you on your final stint back home!

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Turkey – gateway to Europe


Day one among the veggies.

So there we were, our first wet morning in Turkey, our tent squeezed into someone’s small allotment on the Black Sea coast, excited to be on the final leg to Europe and comforted by the return of the minarets and the wake-up call to prayer.

Mosque at dawn.

Islam, the warm friend of the cycle tourer. We felt safe and at home again and assumed we would be welcomed with smiles and open arms… and that is exactly what we were greeted with – we just underestimated how much tea would accompany that hospitality!

Turkish hospitality - tea and nibbles with Savas in Sakarya.

The draw of the sea and its great bounty

We soon settled into a delightful daily routine of slow starts in the morning and flat speedy kilometres along the shore of the Black Sea. Mountains and towns to our left and little harbours to our right. It was a scene repeated hour after hour. At times I think Katherine found it a little tedious, but for me the daily rhythms of the fishing boats, the subtle yet predictable changes in the water’s colour and easy cycling allowed me to while away the hours in happy day-dreams. This south-eastern section of the Black Sea coast is like a giant north-facing garden, the road often in the looming shadow of the mountain faces, with the sunlight sparkling on the sea. Vast open deserts have often given me pangs of panic, feeling somehow restrictive and oppressive. Paradoxically, this stretch of Turkish road clinging to the water’s edge, pinned-in by impenetrable rock, induced in me a deep comfort.

Cycling on the water's edge.

We were both enamoured with the fruits of the sea that we would see being hauled in and sold fresh by the road side. Signs for balik (fish in Turkish) began to consume our radar in the hope we might get a whiff of fresh fish grilling on hot coals. One mild evening we had the fortune to stop near an outside restaurant a few kilometres from the nearest town. The friendly owner called up to the road and we pointed to an old sign with a tent on it. We hadn’t seen any campsites that were open in the winter so we were pleasantly surprised when he showed us to one end of his restaurant garden and said we could camp there for free. Once we popped up our tent, we couldn’t resist the romantic view from the restaurant and decided to have dinner there. We were told there wasn’t a menu; we could have the balik or the kofte meal. The lack of choice was liberating. I ordered a fish meal for two without consulting Kat knowing it wasn’t necessary to ask as small fishing boats chugged past the glow of the setting sun.

Life's good - eating on the Black Sea.

We had a momentary panic when the waiter came out with a tablecloth. It must have been a very long time since we had eaten somewhere with real linen tablecloths. Kat gave me a look of horror. ‘A tablecloth!’ she urgently whispered under her breath, while giving the waiter a wry smile that tried to say everything was all quite normal. ‘Don’t worry,’ I reassured,  ‘let’s just enjoy the decadence and worry about our finances tomorrow…’

Eating from plates on a tablecloth.

And enjoy we did. The table laden with fresh bread, salads and succulent fresh fish. We were also presented with a huge tea-brewing contraption that had hot coals inside with taps and spouts steaming like some kind of Jules Verne creation. It was a wonderful evening and a great camping spot. Our tablecloth fears were unfounded, the total bill was little more than a McDonald’s meal in London. And it was another memory from our journey you could never put a price on.

The art of tea.

Inspired by the proximity of a sea positively brimming with fish, we invested in a fishing rod from a seaside toy shop. But our dreams of complete self-sufficiency on the road have not yet been realised. In honesty, not a single bite yet. However, the big one is down there and until then Kat’s lack of faith ensures there is always a tin of tuna when I come back empty handed…

Here fishy, fishy. Trying our luck in the ancient town of Sinop.

Losing tackle but living the dream!

Wild campers meet the boys

A chilly wild camp in a field somewhere.

There may be an art to so called wild camping. I am not sure we have mastered it but for us it simply involves sticking up a tent in a place that is unlikely to bother anyone.  It was while wild camping in Turkey that we discovered another group attracted to such places – young Turkish men.

Our introduction to this curious world was on a beach near the town of Surmene. We looked down from a main road where some steps led to a perfect camping beach.

Beach camping.

It was a great spot but there was a group of teenage boys down there. After a should we/shouldn’t we conversation we decided the beach was big enough for all of us. Like most teenagers they were curious and amused by us but incredibly open and welcoming. As we set up our tent directly under what turned out to be a Turkish no-camping sign, the group of five or six lads lay out a blanket and started setting out some food. Kat smiled at me as one of the boys carefully set out plates of chopped tomatoes, another broke bread and the others set to lighting the BBQ and marinating meat. We were just waiting for the girls to arrive to this sophisticated banquet that seemed uncharacteristic of a group of sixth-formers still in their uniforms.

Meeting the local lads.

But the girls didn’t arrive. This was a group of boys having some down time after school and once the meat was cooked we were invited over and served plate after plate of wholesome food. It was a fun evening. A small bottle of vodka emerged at some point and soon hi-jinx, that can only result from a single shot of vodka when you are a teen, erupted. It was wonderfully innocent but once the semi-stumbling group headed off, I reflected on how surreal this felt in comparison to my own teen antics.

A great BBQ spot.

A few days later we found another beach, deserted but for a small make-shift shelter. It was getting dark and no-one was about. We set up camp, cooked and turned in for the night.

Another perfect little beach.

We woke with a sinking feeling. A group of men’s voices grew louder, down the path to the beach. Footsteps came closer to the tent and wandered past with a few whispers. Sounds and activities outside the tent always feel more sinister when you are inside so I was volunteered to go out and meet our visitors. The blokes looked a little terrified as I emerged but we soon started up a friendly chat. After helping them to light a small bonfire of driftwood in front of the small hut with some of our petrol used to fuel our camp-stove, the ice was broken. One of the men, who spoke good English, explained that they came down to the beach most nights and had done since they were teens. The little hut was theirs. They were now in their 30s, still single. They asked if I minded them having a beer and as we chatted together, beer in hand by the fire, I was struck by how lovely, yet lost these men were. They talked of how they dreamed of getting married, perhaps to an English girl (though none of them had been outside of Turkey). They were interested in the world Kat and I had explored. They were frustrated at the cultural restrictions they felt. ‘My mother would go mad if she saw me in a restaurant with a girl…’, a man a year younger than me explained matter of factly. They were men navigating a maze of Islamic and local traditions, educated in a secular country with western aspirations. I wondered how many groups of young men in search of love and a sense of identity were out that night finding solace in their deep childhood male friendships. Would those school boys from the other night be soul searching under the stars a decade from now? I was invited to join the boys in a ‘strong Turkish cigarette’ by the embers of the dying fire. There were laughs and smiles but the herbal haze was pungent with melancholy.

Friends for life.

Unlucky, Unlucky, Lucky in Love...

A group of single male teachers cooking in a forest near our tent a week later confirmed for us that Turkey is full of love seeking culinary experts.

Hills full of history

The flat road, often built on land reclaimed from the sea, finally ran out. While testing our legs and our brakes, the views around each headland were immense and seeped with ancient history.

Turkey's historic shores.

We travelled through the region of Unye, the land of the Amazons, circa 1200 BC. Mythological or not, the region did bring out some fiesty feminist debate on the bike. It is interesting that such a myth, which the excitable young boy in me wants to believe, would certainly have had roots in real societies in Anatolia. That over 3,000 years ago certain matriarchal societies had such radically different ideas on gender, that they created a myth that is still a challenge to gender roles today, is in itself exciting. I am convinced that if there is a modern feminist question, the answer is almost certainly nestled in our human history or likely, alive and well in our existing anthropology somewhere in the world.

We travelled though the land of Jason and the Argonauts and the home of Father Christmas. It was reassuring as Christmas drew closer that Saint Nicholas had once resided here. Why wouldn’t he have a break from the north-pole for a Turkish retreat? I imagine that olives and feta on the banks of the Black Sea are the perfect antidote after all those mince pies.

Heading inland

Hooch didn’t like the steep ups and downs of the coast. We had a couple of punctures that were due to heavy braking. So we headed inland, where for now, there would only be ups…  It was hard work and the nights were colder, but we were rewarded by wonderful vistas and friendly locals.

Looking back to the Black Sea.

Up, up, up and feeling small again.

Beautiful mountains, chasing the sun around the corner.

Twin Peaks - our new tyre proves a disaster, but what a spot to have a blowout.

Near a small mountain village, with a dog who sang along with the calls to pray, we found our best Turkish camp spot.

 

Safronbolu

Heading inland to get away from the coastal hills and to get to Istanbul we stumbled by chance on the town of Safronbolu. It turned out to be a famously authentic Ottoman town, beautifully preserved and gave a feel for what much of Turkey would have felt like before the fall of the Ottoman Empire when houses were built from wood. We had a couple of days off to explore and regain our strength.

Exploring the old streets.

Ottoman style homes.

Steep cobbles, better on foot!

When I first tried to convince Kat that this trip was a good idea, I had used the hook of riding the ‘endless summer’. The endless off-season would probably have been more realistic. Safronbolu was certainly in its downtime but it suited us – cheap accommodation, quiet streets and no pressure to buy from tourist shops. It made me laugh to see a man at our empty hotel lovelessly knocking out novelty wooden toy guns and spoons with the towns name burnt into them with a soldering iron, gearing up for a summer of flogging cheap tat.

It was very cold at night but after an old lady showed us how to light our wood burner by poking matches in the top, we were lovely and toasty.

It won't fit on the bike, but I am getting one of these when I get home...

Chilling out on our sedir, Ottoman bench seating that traditionally doubled as a bed.

Picking up spices for the camp kitchen.

Even in this tourist town, Hooch is still a spectacle.

Weirdos on the road

Despite what many of our friends and family may think, we are not the only people travelling slowly around the world. We do bump into the occasional cycle tourer going in the opposite direction – although we are yet to overtake one! We have also met a few of an interesting breed that are walking across continents. Perhaps the most unusual chap was this Japanese guy we pulled over to chat to near a petrol station a few hundred kilometres from Istanbul.

Kat gives the Japanese walker the thumbs up.

Walking from China to Morocco, 65 year old Mr Takashita, shuffling along in flip-flops, asked us for help. He needed to fix the wheel on his cart. We couldn’t help him as his wheels were a different size from ours. We were a bit bemused that he hadn’t sought help earlier as his cart included, alongside cuddly toys and other knick-knacks, three other broken wheels. Once we reached the petrol station with him he asked the attendant to call the police to help him with his limping cart. The attendant refused and suggested he hooked his cart up to the back of our bike, assuming we were travelling together. I protested that we had only just met this lovely, heroic man, yet an individual obviously at the far end of the eccentricity scale. Then I saw this picture and realised the attendant’s assumption was perhaps a reasonable one…

Steve with Mr Takashita who got hospitalised after his cart was hit by a car in Georgia.

We suggested to Mr Takashita that he try and hitchhike to the next town to find a wheel. We left with a wave and shouted a much needed, ‘Good luck Mr Takashita!’, Kat muttering, ‘That’ll be you one day – I know it.’

The Tandem Turners tent – Guests Welcome!

With light fading on the outskirts of the city of Kastamonu, it was like any other night as we looked for a place to put our tent. Through a tunnel under the main road we found a field that had been harvested, a great place to camp for the night…  As we unpacked the bike, a tractor passed near the end of the field. I switched off my head torch. We had been spotted and the field workers walked towards our silhouettes suspiciously. I put my torch back on and wandered over smiling. ‘Hello, we are English!’ We find this explains most of our unusual behaviour. They didn’t speak English but understood our intentions were innocent. They were concerned that a car may career off the road above on to our tent so they helped us move to the other end of the field. Smiling and waving they left us to camp for the night.

Just as we were settled and about to make our evening meal, the tent lit up, car headlights turned into the field. An engine drew closer at speed. We cut our lights and wondered why anyone would be driving a car across a field after dark. As it pulled up outside the tent, I volunteered to meet the mobsters/drug dealers/kidnappers etc. But of course this is Turkey. We were greeted by one of the farmers and his two young daughters who had brought us tea and food. Welcome to our humble home!

Tea, a universal language.

We were a little unsure what we would talk about but a happy hour was spent comparing our head torches with our host, eating bread and cheese and enjoying each others company. No matter how impractical our big red tent may seem, it is great for dinner parties.

Dad, why did you bring us to visit these strange people?

Kat hangs out with the older daughter in the bedroom and practices her Turkish.

After the family bundled out of our home, as well as a pile of normal food, we were presented with a large carrier bag of freshly picked walnuts.

Nice nuts!

We slept well, with full tums.

In the morning we had another guest. A sorry looking pigeon with missing feathers. We think it was hiding from a large animal that Kat spotted in the trees during her morning ablutions. Our research has narrowed Kat’s description of the beautiful creature down to a gray wolf or a jackal. We gently chucked the pigeon under a shed door when we left but we think the odds are with the big wild dog (we are just glad it didn’t have a taste for humans).

Sad pigeon.

This must have been the most popular field in Turkey as we were greeted in the morning by the local mayor. He confirmed his credentials not with a badge or shiny chain around his neck but a pistol mounted on his hip. Despite speaking no English, we gathered through the use of his Google translate that he was very interested in our trip and welcomed us to his city. He talked about putting us in the local press but we spent an embarrassing time trying to use Google translate to give a quote, which came up with such translations as ‘We think Turkish people are all beetles’. The comedy factor was lost due to the knowledge the frustrated mayor was ‘packing’…

We are often approached by members of the press that we never hear from again and wonder what stories, courtesy of Google translate and dodgy sign language we have had printed in our wake.

Kat meets the mayor as she explains to him you are all beetles!

 Other Random Turkey Pictures

Modern Turkey. On the road to Istanbul, we were reminded how affluent and modern much of the county is. The city of Bolu had wonderful light shows in the fountains at night.

 

Turkish kids helping with directions...

Never a rush to start on these mornings

Winter is upon us. Camping in some bushes.

A mountain view.

Someone had made us a little table and chairs on this beach. Probably some single guys...

Kebabs for lunch.

OK, so we don't feel like cycling every day...

 

More tasty sea food. Yum.

 

Every morning was 5 -star on the Black Sea. 5 -stars with out the heating.

Did we mention the wonderful food?

Camping in a forest.

One last thing

‘What about all the older men who are lucky enough to have wives?’  I hear you say.  From what we could tell they spend most of their time in chai houses, drinking tea, where women are not allowed – so go figure.

 

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