An Unwelcome Guest

I bloody hate eating in bed as crumbs get bloody everywhere, but its dank and wet outside so needs must. Two or so nights ago I was dinning in the eateries of Istanbul supping wine and picking at olives whilst having a jolly with friends. Now I’m eating cheap cheese and bread in bed. It was great having visitors but if I do a ride like this again in the future I might not have people meet me for I have a serious case of the post holiday blues, it’s back to the grindstone and it’s mentally tough. A surreal weekend.

What am I doing when all my friends are at home, having fun, working behind a desk and sleeping in a fluffy bed? Back it up….working behind a desk, I might be in a random field on my tod, but there isn’t a desk in sight.

At breakfast in Istanbul on my morning of departure, I was asked if I was worried about bears or wolves. I wasn’t…but apparently I am now, for that night I am dreaming of black polar bears when I’m awoken by the sound of a large animal making its way through the undergrowth with a grumble or two – it sounds big. You might think that a wild boar is just a big pig, but they pack a punch and I have no desire to come up close and personal with one. If you aren’t convinced just ask Robert Baratheon. A bite or a swipe from a tusk would not be good news and though it would leave a cool scar and a story. I lie awake wide eyed assuming, like lions, they see my tent as a big rock and hopefully not a scratching post. My heart is thumping hard in my chest, he just might hear it. I listen to him snuffling away around my tent and in the morning discover a victim: my banana.

So if there are boars maybe there are wolves? Boars would undoubtedly make a good meal. I doubt there are any around, wolves that is. And bears, what do they even eat? Boar? Deer?….Man? I’ve only ever seen black bears bin-diving in Canada or grizzlies on National Geographic salmon fishing. I know they love a good blueberry, and I’ve seen plenty of locals spring foraging. Oh and Winnie the Poo loves honey, with all the hives round here there would be good pickings. Oh and don’t forget marmalade.

There is an apparent downfall of British bees, it’s likely because they have all moved here – there are bloody loads of hives. I was stung by a bloody bee today, I’m going to take my vengeance and eat a tonne of honeycomb this evening.

The day continues. It been all hills hills hills, or should I say ladies ladies ladies, as apparently that’s what I’m calling them today. They make me work for the reward of their peaks. Perhaps I could name them after disgruntled lovers, there are certainly enough of them. Hair raising ascents and nose running descents, the roads mimic a helter-skelter. Thank God for the African training ground, this has been by far the hardest cycling to date.

I climb 300m, 400m or 500m up each lady to the pass so that I can reach the next bay. Below in the valleys they are constructing a new (zero gradient) highway and nestled in the clefts of the valleys sits the entrance to tunnels, gaping mouthed as if to say, “you wish.” I should have waited a year or so and just cycled right beneath these hills. As I snake up the slopes like a snow plougher in reverse I become aware that when I’m struggling or working hard pushing myself up the slopes, a trickle of drool seeps out of the left hand side of my mouth like a stroke victim. And sporadically I stick out my tongue in a large flexing motion that a Maori would be proud of; it’s not a pretty sight to behold.

Day 4. The weather has changed and what a difference it has made. I awoke to blue seas and even bluer skies. It’s funny how the weather has such control over your impression of a place. You could visit a city in the rain and come back home saying, “it was alright” or “yeah I’m glad I’ve done it but not again.’’ Then someone else will go, stay at the same hotel but have wall to wall sunshine and have a jolly old time and rave about the place. Well I’m now cycling through God’s country, sorry Yorkshire its time to stand aside. Well actually I should say it’s Allah’s country so Yorkshire can have the title back after all. It’s just bloody tough going is all.

It feels like the alps despite the vast sea views. The air is crisp and in the shade in the lee of the mountains there is a bit of a bite to it. I awoke amongst the pine trees with the sound of the breaking waves and I was bloody freezing! Things might be changing but winter still has some say in the matter. As I meander through the valleys wild mint, honeysuckle and flowers fill the air with a fresh tinge. Cow bells rattle in the fields, some even wear beaded necklaces, they live the good life here, they are full bodied and healthy lookin, the fields are lush and there isn’t the crack of a whip to be heard; Africa is behind me, I can eat meat guilt-free again. Water isn’t an issue either, I can drink straight from mountain streams or from public taps which siphon off this same fresh water, though occasionally I have had to wait for the heifers to have their fill. It’s farming country and cows come first.

When I stop for my morning tea, there are often more tractors than cars parked out front. Though many of these are more like bumped up lawn mowers than John Deere’s. The village dogs keeps me on my toes as I leave the cafes chasing after the cyclist barking. Once or twice there has been the distinct deep canine grumble of intent, who can blame them, my calves must look pretty succulent these days; but a quick boot and they whimper away with a yelp. I jest, I could never kick a dog they are just too god damn adorable.

We Brits are a nation of tea drinkers, though I did read that our consumption is in decline, screw the weak state of the pound – tea is on the decline! But the Turks are no different, tea is part of their culture, they are known for their coffee too. More than a few times I have been invited in for a tea, not able to exchange a word we drink in amenable silence. One cafe owner as I went to pay for my cafetiere of coffee just shook my hand, smiled and opened the door for me. The Turks are a good people and perhaps the best top lip dressers in the world. Fine moustaches – they meet all the requirements: full bodied, thick, full coverage and can be seen from a good distance.

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