Monday 4 June. Day 17. (Final Day)
Malkara to Istanbul 130 miles.
After a wake up call with a difference this morning (prayers from Mosque over a megaphone heard all over the town and surrounding areas by the loudness of it - must have been about 4am) its my last day, can't believe it's gone so fast when I think back of when I set off from home.
As last nights stay over was so cheap, breakfast was not included ! I did enjoy staying over in a place like Malkara, as its off the beaten track and the locals probably don't see any tourists that much. I'm out with my bike ready for the off, the guy at the hotel tried to explain where I could eat breakfast but I couldn't make out where he was on about, so I head off towards the main road towards Istanbul, from the centre of Malkara it's a downhill cycle back to the main road, the roads are in poor repair with plenty of dust as local cars are driving past.
I stop at a local store to get some water, and a few snacks just to keep me going until I come across some place that I could get a more substantial meal. I reckoned on a shorter milage day for today and worked out roughly it could be just over the hundred miles, so shouldn't be too bad.
After being on the main road I was thinking its a good job it is about 100 miles today as the going is tough, not because of the road conditions they seem to have improved now back onto the main road, but the hard challenging part of the morning was the rolling hills - it's exactly like cycling along roads in Cornwall and Devon (plenty of up and downs) and throw in the temp - around mid 30s.. its tough, the downhills great the uphills painful and very slow, but the views are great, again you could be in Devon and Cornwall its so green - am I really in Turkey ?
At around midday, I head toward a main city/town of Tekirdag it looks a busy place from the hill I have just cycled over, then its a long descent towards there, I keep on the main road which takes me to the left of the main centre which is good, I whizz past a diner as go past the outskirts and think I should really stop there for something to eat but now I'm probably about half a mile past and turning back seems like a bad idea ! so I carry on, the road then goes up hill quite a steep one too, I start to flag a bit and end up crawling slowly, until the top then its back down (Yes that'll do) after a mile or two there is a junction where you could go to a small town, so I came off and followed this dirt road down until I see a petrol station - I pull in, it's fine as I can get food, and drinks and a top up of water.
After a little break and water top up I'm off up the dusty hill back onto the main road. In the afternoon the main road does go quite flat again so thats great as I can cycle easily and quickly. All the way along this road I have the sea-view to my right which is fantastic, I also make regular stops at petrol stations, I have a craving today for ice lollies, I can't get enough, I just buy snacks, drinks and ice lollies and just sit at the side of the building and watch the world go by as I'm enjoying my snacks - I do feel quite relaxed today probably due to the finish later. Along the main road I was that close to a part of a beach I could have touched the sea, so I did, I pulled into the side and pushed my bike near the sea.. I was tempted to take a dip, but one look at the side of where I was stood and I could see sewage !! No thanks haha and back I went on the main road and back on the bike.
Its about 5pm and I think I'm coming into the centre of Istanbul... I can see a mosque in the distance its also a built up area like a city, so I'm taking photo's and thinking about where can I stop tonight. The traffic is getting quite busy at this time, I get out the phone app to see if any hotels are around. When it loaded up I was not in Istanbul but looked like I was just at the tip of a province and Istanbul was at the opposite end of town... Damn! So I head off again in the thick of it "Traffic everywhere" ! 5 and 6 lanes converging at regular intervals its like London but 50 times worse ! It's a fight for survival here, but Its forward I go, dodging cars buses, wagons everything that this place is throwing at me.
Every few minutes its Beep Beeeep Beeep ! madness.. an hour passes and I'm still in the thick of it but on the good side I'm nearly there, I just miss a turning, so I carry the bike off this main road, carry it over a grass verge, and see quite a large drop to get to the road I need to get on below. So the panniers are removed and thrown down, the bike is lowered as far as I can stretch my arms then I let it go, luckily it drops a little before landing Ok, then I take the leap down myself... Bump, its like a parachute roll over as I land on the road. I get the bike packed up again, dust myself down and off I go on the last road towards Istanbul, it's only about 15 mins and I'm nearly there, I'm heading down a cobbled street with restaurants and shops at either side of me, I eventually get to a main square where I see behind a mosque (It's the Blue Mosque, I'm here, although it was a little further distance today that I thought it would be) Yes.... I push bike to where I can take a photo of myself and bike with mosque in the background, its not really a good light as it's starting to get dark. I ring Mrs F and tell her the great news that I have made it safely too, she's delighted and just looking forward to my coming home. I update Twitter and Facebook and then It's finding a place to stay and get some food and wine.
I head back up the cobble street, where I see a place to stay, I'm straight in and booking a room, they say I have a bike where have I come from, they are amazed that I have got here in so little time even after all the spoke/wheel problems! one of the guys offers to carry the panniers up to my room while I place my bike next door in like a empty shop window. The guy who carries my bags is struggling with them, so I show him hows its done , he remarks to me "Superman" ! (I liked that) haha. Once I'm booked in and washed, I'm back downstairs and out of the front door, straight opposite there is a little supermarket, my thought is that my flight is quite early tomorrow, so I will need cardboard of some sorts to pack my bike up with, so before I look for a restaurant I head over towards the bins outside the supermarket where lots a cardboard and after popping my head inside the supermarket to ask if I can take some for my bike they just nod. Whilst I'm routing through the rubbish looking for the best quality card, there are people /tourists walking past me probably on their way down the road for meals/walks etc... I was thinking I bet they think I'm looking for scrap food.. :-)
After getting a stash I head across to my hotel and leave it with the check in desk for early tomorrow, a mini bus will pick me up at 9.45am to the Airport, so I will have to get up early for breakfast then break down and pack away my bike ready to get to airport.
Once sorted I head back down the cobbled street and the first food place is a Chinese restaurant, well.. I'll have Soup, Beef and mushroom, rice and a bottle of Red please :-) after I demolished that meal I go for a walk about the town taking pics of the mosque and also go down to the water front, but can't really see anything so head back towards my hotel. Along the way I stop off at a corner cafe, I sit outside and order a wine, its very busy out and about wit plenty of people relaxing/eating. I decide to look at the menu and order a Turkish kebab meal now whilst drinking several more glasses of Red wine - well I am Celebrating. Its getting quite late now so I pay bill and walk back towards my hotel, and along the way the Mosques are again blasting out prayers again, its very loud but I'm used to it after staying in Turkey last night too.
The morning after I'm up about 6.30am and get in breakfast, get the bike packed up, and I'm all ready for the mini bus back to airport and back home to see my family (I have missed them).
The mini bus driver pulls up and I say goodbye to hotel staff, it's a 11 seater minibus, and there are 2 people and me, so thats great! then I see that the driver is on a route to pick up more people, and when we get to 11 people on the bus including myself, my bike has been in and out of the boot with everybody's cases being re-positioned were all thinking yep thats it were off now to the airport, well the driver pulls up outside another hotel with 2 more people to get on it really was a squeeze on this bus but we all got to the airport eventually Including my bike.
Total miles cycled from Huddersfield to Istanbul was 1930 miles or 3105km
Countries cycled through - Holland, Belgium, France, Switzerland, France, Italy, Albania, Macedonia, Greece and Turkey.
All with minimal training beforehand, and not an ideal diet before and throughout - apart from the Wine :-)
Thanks for taking time to read my blog - keep following for other updates and the Next Adventure :-)