Istanbul and Gallipoli

It was a month ago that we left a small city called Artvin in the east of Turkey on our way to the Black Sea. We left Artvin after lunch, slow to organise ourselves after two nights in a hotel, and had a bit of a shock as there was a fierce headwind. The road wasn’t too busy though there were a few tunnels. Then we hit brand new tarmac which was a bit of a novelty. Due to the steep sides of the valley we camped “wild” a bit too close to a village and were disturbed all night.

We had a massive climb before we reached the top of the pass on the second day of cycling, and then we found ourselves moving from the drier rockier interior to the lush green humid Black Sea coast with the most marvellous decent – in about 10 minutes we had gone down most of the 650 metres. We reached Hopa and as we had expected were disappointed with the coastline – man-made sea walls with no sign of beaches, and no obvious redeeming features of the town although my guidebook had called it a “pleasant coastal resort”!

At the bus station we considered our options. Ideally we wanted a bus back the way we had come and then on to Ardahan so we could continue cycling to Kars. However there were only minibuses on this route and fitting the bikes in would be a problem. There were plenty of large coaches going elsewhere, including Istanbul, and after some deliberation we decided we had seen enough Turkish mountains for now and would head for the city.

We stayed at the Orient International Hostel, and met three other cycle tourists, one from the UK on his way to Australia, the others from France and Germany, both going around the world. Istanbul is large but easy to get around either on bikes or public transport. We did some sightseeing and shopping for bicycle parts while trying to hide from the heat in the middle of the day. Tilly and I enjoyed exploring the Grand Bazaar and riding the tram.

Jack bought a Fez at the Grand Bazaar

We tried to find cheap food (shocked by the prices compared to eastern Turkey!) and my favourite so far is the savoury pastries while Brad likes the Turkish delight. Jack and Tilly wanted hot chips but everywhere (except the Western fast food chains) serves them cold!

Mausoleum at the Haghia Sophia

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul

Inside the Blue Mosque

Jack decided to head home, and after putting him on his plane we set out to the bus station to see where we could go in search of beaches! We had to try three bus companies before we found one, Metro, who would take the bikes (for an extra fee on the way out though we managed not to pay extra on the way back) to Çannakale, the city on the Dardanelles which is the gateway to Gallipoli for so many tourists.

The Dardanelles

After a night bus journey it was dawn when we set off from the Çannakale bus station and cycled to the ferry which took us a short hop across the Sea of Marmara at it’s narrowest point. We cycled to the other side of the Gallipoli Peninsula and found a campsite at Kabatepe where we stayed for 3 nights. The campsite was in a pine forest next to a sandy beach with clear blue water. It should have been a fabulous location but unfortunately the Turkish people do not pick up their litter at all. The campsite and beach were covered in paper and plastic rubbish and the toilet/shower block was never cleaned.

Evening swim at Kabetepe beach

A rubbish dump on top of a windy hill…

Our neighbours were very friendly and gave us Turkish tea and coffee, watermelon and bread. They were primary school teachers and for 10 years have spent every summer at the campsite. They told us that the school children have 3 months off over the summer which explains why we haven’t noticed any schools since we arrived in Turkey.

Quiet country roads

We visited the Çannakale Museum and learned the Turkish side of the WWI story (very much steeped in propaganda though) and cycled to Anzac Cove and visited just one of the many Commonwealth cemeteries.

Anzac Cove

Tired of all the rubbish we had one last lovely swim in the Aegean sea and headed back to the southern side of the peninsula and found our best wild camping spot yet. We had views of the ships passing through the Dardanelles, were disturbed by no-one except the local cowherd who welcomed us warmly and profusely in Turkish, offering us water, bread, and other things that we couldn’t understand.

Ships passing in the night, The Dardanelles

We forced ourselves to leave early in the morning and do a proper days cycling, to go and visit the British WWI memorial at Helles Point, at the very tip of the peninsula. We ended up cycling 70km that day, which is the most we have ever done on our fully loaded touring bikes.

Happy cycling

Tilly was in her element, to tired to pedal but keen that we were always on the move. We stopped for icecream and pop and to cook some pasta but otherwise kept on the move the whole day.

We crossed back to Çannakale on the ferry and then waited for the evening bus back to Istanbul. This time Brad split the tandem in half to ensure no arguments about carrying the bikes with the bus driver.

 

We arrived in Istanbul at dawn and cycled 25km to find breakfast and our hostel. With yesterdays cycling that makes 95km in less than 24hrs. Now we are relaxing with air conditioning, which is much appreciated after camping in the heat. We have a few days to shop for bike spare parts, clean our filthy clothes and prepare to arrive in India.

Eating Istanbul street food – BBQ’d mackerel

On the Galata Bridge in Istanbul

Pedalling around in Turkey

Waiting for the bus in Istanbul

Turkey has been a bright, hot, friendly and spectacular introduction to our cycle tour. From Istanbul to Ankara by bus and Ankara to Erzurum by train, everything went smoothly. We paid extra to put the still bagged bicycles in the baggage carriage on the train. The journey took 24 hours, and Brad unpacked the bikes in the baggage car and put them back together, with the side doors wide open and scenery rushing by, without losing anything out the doors, so we were ready to cycle by the time we arrived in Erzurum.

Our train to Erzurum

Since then it has been 7 days of cycling, wild camping, eating what we can find – even buying live fish in the middle of nowhere when we ran out of food – and meeting very few English speakers.

Our first camp

Jack (aged 18) and Tilly (aged 3) have been troopers. Jack is always ready to cycle further and buries his head in a book while he waits for us, or entertains Tilly when needed. Tilly sleeps on the tandem during the hottest part of the day, pedals in the cool of the late afternoons and loves the fast descents down hill when she shouts “wheeeeee”. She eats massive bowls of pasta at night and demands regular ice-creams (in unison with Jack). We have had no problems finding places to camp, usually near the river where Tilly loves to throw stones and we can heat up river water for an improvised shower.

Our first high pass, reached on our second day of cycling

Happy incywincyrider

We have cycled through countryside that looked very much like our home county (Derbyshire, England) but on dirt roads with horse and cart or tractors, and then up into the mountains where the rocks soar above our heads and there are patches of cultivated ground, and masses of fruit trees – apricots, cherries, figs, apples, peaches and walnuts. We took a side trip to see Yusefeli, a town catering to (mainly Turkish) tourists who come for the white water rafting and kayaking. We have been following the river Çoruh and have seen where it has been dammed (for hydroelectricity) and we will continue to follow it to the sea.

Getting closer to the dam wall

We have climbed more on the bikes than I would have imagined possible after doing no training and carrying such heavy loads. We have been up to an altitude of 2125m and climbed over 700m in one day (the same day that we ate only biscuits and crisps as we lost a bag containing our food supplies). There are plenty of offers of Turkish tea and sugar cubes to keep us refreshed. Tilly has been gifted all sorts of things, from chocolate to apricots to cucumbers. She has suffered kisses and pats and cheek pinches and people wanting her photo, and has developed a technique of covering her face with her bike helmet when she has had enough.

What goes up must come down…

Today we are resting in Artvin, a city perched most unhelpfully (when you are on a bicycle) on top of a mountain. Tomorrow we head out of town towards the Black Sea coast.

For more photos see our Facebook page

France Tour 2011

The summer after we bought them, we took our tandem and my touring bike to France. We cycled from Limoges to the Atlantic coast near Bordeaux over 8 days, camping along the way. We took the train back to our starting point.

The cycling was tough, the food great and camping in campsites expensive. The trip wasn’t long enough for a two-and-a-half year old to adjust to the different way of life, though given a playground, beach or other kids to play with she enjoyed herself immensely.

Tilly was keen to pedal at the beginning and end of the trip but for 4 or 5 days in the middle she chose to sit in her bike seat and observe rather than participate in the cycling. At this point she wasn’t really adding much power to the pedalling of the tandem anyway!

We then started to prepare in earnest for our 2012 cycling adventure, happy that with a tandem bike, a single bike, and a lot of pannier bags, we would be able to tour the world with a small child without the need to tow a trailer.

A little Saturday outing

We enjoyed a little outing on the bikes today, trying not to feel guilty about all the work we were meant to be doing at home, and took advantage of the fact that it wasn’t raining and there were actually some patches, albeit small patches, of blue sky.

With a packed lunch, extra warm layers on, and a small dolly, we headed to a playground and then a corner shop so that Tilly could buy some chocolate buttons, her prerequisites for getting out of the house on this chilly morning! We went to a lovely big park to have our picnic, and then Tilly and I visited the lake and she climbed trees, collected sticks, picked dandelions and generally had fun, while Brad chatted about kite surfing with a French engineer.

It was a bit of a slog up the golf course hill and a dash home to just about avoid the rain.

It was lovely to be out on the bikes – we haven’t had the time to do any rides recently, and it really felt like the right way to spend a day. We can’t wait to spend everyday like that.

Testing the waters – an overnight trip to Carsington Water

Early in May 2011 after a couple of false starts we finally set off from home on our first cycle tour. We deliberately kept our plans flexible, just hoping to camp near a reservoir in the Derbyshire Dales called Carsington Water and return the next day. As it turned out we did a ‘practice’ 12 mile loop from home on the Saturday, fully loaded with all gear, which gave me my first opportunity to adjust to the extra weight.

On Sunday we set off at midday, meandered 16 miles through the countryside and set up camp at 5pm. Luckily for us the strong winds had almost cleared the Knockerdown Inn campsite of long weekend holiday makers, as we hadn’t booked. In addition I had forgotten to pack any cash which limited our choice to just the one campsite attached to a pub. Thanks to those strong winds we enjoyed a pint and profiteroles in the pub as well as a pitch for the tent.

Frustratingly Tilly didn’t want to dress warmly enough for the cold weather and it’s hard to dress a two year old against her will. Although she enjoyed the playground at Carsington Water and then at the pub, she didn’t enjoy being outside the tent at the camp site as the windy conditions quickly chilled her. Inside the tent she was super excited and quickly stripped off all her clothes to make herself comfy!

On Monday we packed up and were on the road at 11am, taking the high road through Brassington to the High Peak Trail, a dedicated cycle and walking path cutting through the White Peak District. We had lunch at The Boat Inn in Cromford and were home by 5pm after 20 miles of cycling. It was an enjoyable ride with some tough hills that I had to push my bike up, though Tilly and Daddy managed to cycle up all the hills.

Tilly did really well, riding the tandem with her feet strapped to the pedals and a big grin on her face, and transferred to the child seat when she needed a rest or a sleep. Brad could tell that Tilly was trying her hardest to help with the pedalling on the big hills – by pedalling backwards and increasing the resistance! When we stopped to catch our breath Tilly would start rocking forwards and backwards on her seat shouting Go! Go! Go!

Our first overnight cycle trip was a big success, but we were completely overwhelmed by the energy it took to cycle, make and break camp, and entertain Tilly and didn’t have any left over to take videos or more than a few photos. Hopefully we will get better at fitting everything into our days with more experience on the road.

Our luggage consisted of four panniers, tent bag and a bar bag on my bike and two panniers, bar bag, child seat and Tilly on the tandem with Brad.

Welcome

Welcome to our incywincyrider blog.

In 2010 when our daughter was just 18 months old we bought a second hand Thorn tandem (with S&S couplings). It was in pretty bad shape but after a lot of work by Brad it was outfitted with kiddy cranks and made roadworthy. The kiddy cranks meant that our daughter Tilly could sit on the seat with her feet on the pedals and even if she wasn’t up to putting any weight on the pedals at least her feet would go around when her dad pedalled. She loved it! She had very good balance even at 18 months (so we didn’t end up buying a back rest or waist strap) and her long legs (she takes after her tall Dad) suited cycling perfectly.

We were heavily influenced by this family who are very dedicated to their family tandem fun. But our real motivation for buying ‘Thorny’ the tandem was our desire to travel by bicycle in our own version of a family gap year, and so ‘Rosie’ a second hand mountain bike was also acquired for Nina to ride, and we started to plan our travels.