Total from Bewdley: 4735km: Daily Total: 134km; 1100m of climbing.
Today was the day we made it to our detination for this part of the trip (sorry to ruin the punch line). It was a day that had little else to commend it but was none the less unforgettable. I knew we had at least 130km to go, the forecast was for a continued ferocious headwind and we would be on main roads all day. It was all those, plus the most maniacal 2 hours cycling we’ve ever done.
I therefore started the day with some trepidation but we were determined to face the day positively and broke the day into manageable goals – a third of the way, half the way, significantly more than half way………etc.
This first part went more easily than expected. Although we were on a busy dual carriageway there was a wide shoulder with excellent road surface. The wind had not got up too strongly and the gradients of the ups and downs were manageable (mind you, any gradient after yesterday would seem easy). Unfortunately as the road joined the intersection with the motorway we suddenly lost the hard shoulder, gained all the motorway traffic and the road surface deteriorated. We were glad to turn off into the town of Siliviri for coffee but were pleased with the progress made over the first 60km.
We decided we would try and find a route off the main road, although we did not have any detailed maps. We managed for a few km out of town but after a couple of blind alleys decided we had not option but to stay on the dual carriageway, Luckily we got a hard shoulder back albeit of variable road surface. Also, when the main road started to hug the coastline, there was a parallel service road for the houses and restaurants on the the sea front which made for slightly quieter riding. The wind was getting up but as we were mostly in built up areas, the buildings protected us from the wind a bit. We got to almost 80km when we stopped for kebabs to re-fortify ourselves.
This is where the madness began. We knew we had one big climb over a peninsular just before getting to the Istanbul conurbation proper. The hill reared ahead of us. By now it seemed a full blown motorway and was completely built up. We cogitated whether to try and find a route off the main dual carriageway but again without maps decided taking the direct route was safer. The main road quickly turned into something like the M1 as we climbed the hill with cars and lorries whizzing past. No one seemed to be surprised that there were 2 mad cyclists with trailers inching their way up the inside lane as they cruised past. We made it to the top and expected a cruise down the other side to the bridge/causeway the other side. Oh how wrong! We did go down but there were several smaller ups and downs, but the road turned into something like the M1 with the M25 running along side filtering on and off the main road and on and off junctions to the side.
It just seemed like pandemonium with traffic coming from every direction. We had to keep nerves of steel and developed a system of continuously staying of the side of the ‘filter road’ crossing lines of incoming traffic as it filtered in. At least we are pretty visible and had deliberately worn our most fluorescent tops (hot pink for her, yellowy lime for him). Dramatic arm signals to show drivers where we wanted to go and I have to say we were always let across and had no one hooting or shouting at us. I have never concentrated so hard and although it seemed to last for ever 10 miles went by without even looking at my mileometer as I looked ahead to David, trying to glue myself to his back wheel as well as behind in front and probably overhead. We finally made it to the penisular crossing where we were able to at last pull in to a little park and sit under a tree and recover physically and mentally for a few minutes.
As we crossed the bridge we were in the environs of Istanbul airport. We managed to wind round a quieter side of the perimeter before joining a road alongside the sea that would take us all the way along to the Golden Horn and the heart of historic Istanbul. It was still another 25km and we were tiring but the goal was in sight and we pedalled along in the late afternoon sun. At last, the turn into Sultanamet, on to cobbled streets and we pulled up in front of the Blue Mosque. We had made it!!!! More tired and relieved than elated and a sense of hardly believing it. Lots of photos taken and we set off to find the hotel.
We had booked the rather grand sounding World Heritage Hotel and struck gold. It was a delightful ’boutique’ hotel we were greeted with a warm welcome and tea and cakes! I can’t tell you how good that was! They ushered us off to our room while they sorted out our bags and bikes with more tea and a plate piled with more cakes (I guess we looked hungry, which was not inaccurate). Fantastic shower, crisp white sheets, a meal at a local cafe and then a soft bed. We kept just looking at each other and saying ‘we made it’…and we had!