Leaving Istanbul

Drying Laundry

Fearghal

Bulgaria

Last Thursday we cycled out of a grey and shiny Istanbul. It had been raining heavily, the road was slippery, and we we had wet feet within a few minutes. Leaving Istanbul was hard. We had spent the previous week hanging out with family and girlfriends, it was difficult to drag ourselves away and get moving again, the cold dirty spray from passing trucks did little to help. By nightfall we had failed to escape Istanbul’s urban sprawl and camped on the only dry land we could find, on the fringe of a petrol station forecourt.

Munching on excellent kebabs, and drinking the endless supply of tea plied by the forecourt attendants it began to sink in- we were on the last leg of our cycle. In a few days we’d be in the EU, in three months we’d be home- the adventure would be over. Somewhere in Turkey the world had changed, and it now seemed behind us. Somewhere along the way, possibly the cold and empty desert of Iran, or the icy passes of the Caucasus we had crossed a bridge, had left a dream and were cycling towards an achievement- and now it was time to start thinking about after. But enough of after for the moment.

Silhouette

Technically our last few days in Turkey were also our first in Europe, but in reality they were our last in Asia. Cycling towards Bulgaria I could feel it, the tea, the dancing with arms aloft, and all the fancy trim of the orient ebbing away. Curved crescents giving way to angular crosses, warm and unquestioning hospitality to reservation. Inshallah to cold rationality. All of this had been happening gradually, but there’s nothing like a border to evoke determinate perceptions where in reality blurry lines exist. Sometimes a line in the sand really helps bring things into focus, and the line in the sand between Bulgaria and Turkey was a bold reminder that most of this is adventure is now behind us and now each kilometre brings us closer to the familiar rather than propelling us into unfamiliar worlds.

Located at the nexus of several realms, where Europe, Asia, Arabia meet Turkey begs cliches and handy metaphors. All of them apt. It is a crossroad and a bridge, it is where the Occident and the Orient merge, its kebabs and beer, ordered roads and pragmatic Islam. For us its where the hard yards, the unknown and unusual begin to give way.

Turkey was good to us. The Turks possibly the warmest people I’ve encountered. They are excellent hosts, generous and undemanding, gregarious and outgoing. I’m sorry to have left.

Tea House

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Going Nowhere

Simon looks suspect
Fearghal

Cuzco-Peru

Cuzco seems to have a pull on us. It feels like we’ve been here for ages. We’d planned a stop-over as Si’s folks were in town for a week, and Emma, our newest revolutionary(who’ll be introduced properly in due course) needed to acclimatise to these andean heights, but we never thought we’d be here this long. Every time we try to leave, something crops up. First it was more blockades, this time due to civil unrest because of rising water rates.

Unfortunately, today’s holdup was a little bit more sinister, and as a result we spent the afternoon and evening in the copshop. We’d stopped for lunch in a run of the mill Comedor(eatery) after climbing out of Cuzco. We were all in good spirits, glad to be moving and on our way round the world again. When we went to leave Marina, noticed her bag was gone. It seems that 3 shady characters had followed us into the restaurant, ordered 10 lunches “to go” to distract the staff, then vamosed with the bag when the opportunity arose.

After a feverish race to an internet cafe to cancel cards before the thieves got a chance to use them, the cops were called, and a merry-go-round of recounting exactly what happened, and describing the culprits began. Oddly enough one of the rozzers had a picture of the thief on her phone??? Her naff glasses were the giveaway. So, we all went down to the station to give statements so that they could go and raid her house. It seems that she was on their most wanted list and there was much activity at the station as Marina was cross examined.  

To an extent, it was inevitable that we were going get something stolen in South America at some point, although that’s no consolation to Marina, who lost the guts of 500 euro’s worth of gear. However, I think that its interesting that it happened in Cuzco, tourist central. Before leaving many friends relations and well-wishers expressed concern for our safety- what, with us travelling through all of those unfamiliar and “scary” places . Yet we’d been on the road for six months with no events. Then we go somewhere that’s familiar and cosmopolitan, Cuzco even has a Mc Donalds, and we get robbed. Today’s mal-adventure reaffirms my belief that one is safer away from the tourist crowds in unfamiliar and “scary” places.

Fingers crossed, the raid goes well and Marina gets her bag back, although we’re not holding out much hope.                

Tomorrow, we’re going to give leaving Cuzco another shot. Hopefully this time we’ll make a go of it.

 Marina and Emma are taken away in the back of a paddy wagon: )