Thursday, September 14, 2006

Still in Istanbul

You know you need a new tent when this happens.

And you definatley need a new rack when this happens.

This is called Kidderminster to the Caspian so I better get to the Caspian. I'll leave here soon follow the Black Sea to Georgia then onto Baku, Azerbaijan.
After that I don't know. I have a (very expensive) Uzbek visa but how i'll get to Uzbekistan I don't know. It looks unlikley i'll get permission to cross Turkmenistan because of the Independance day celebrations there. What better way to celebrate independance than restrict the movement of foriegners into your country eh. If you strain your eyes you'll be able to see Georgia and Azerbaijan on this map.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm in Istanbul

Bulgaria: very hot, lots of mountains and very beautıful. It really is as nice as everyone says. I only sliped 450km down the eastern side. The big mountain ranges to the west must be something. I crossed with no problems into Turkey at Malko Tarnovo. Camped that night in hills, 200km from Istanbul with only shepards and goats for company, I was ready for a final push to Istanbul but it wasn't so easy.
The next day a strong wind picked and was blowing right across me. At first I went straight into it with teeth bared but it blew me off the bike and I had my first bike crash in years. Shit! I hurt my leg quite bad, it was painful to pedal after that and it was just too dangerous to cycle in that kind of wind. To cut a long story short I pushed, dragged and cycled the bike for a day and a half finally calling it a day and hitching the last 50 km to the city limits. Imagine dragging a fully loaded bike up a steep hill with a swollen leg, the wind blowing hard all around you, 20 tonne truck after 20 tonne truck screaming past, sucking you into the road while dogs come running out to yap and growl around your ankles.
One continent crossed, 5 weeks and 4000km closer to where ever i'm going. Ill rest up here and try to sort out visas before heading east again. Istanbul seems like one hell of a city. Heres a pic.

Across Romania

I crossed the Great Plain of Hungary and eneterd the rural north of Romania from Guyla. After spending two days cycling through nothing but villages that looked like they had come straight out of a Robin Hood film thought that Romaia was set firmly in the feudal age, then all of a sudden the quiet mountain road drops you out onto a main highway and there is a sign saying McDonalds 3km.

The trickiest part about cycling in Romania is picking the best route. Roads marked as main highways on the map can be nothing but mashed up tarmac covered in mud, while roads marked as footpaths can be smooth tarmac and easy traffic free cruising all the way. The best thing to do is ask the locals, they will understand if you ask "asphalt total?" The Plain of Hungary extends into Romania a fair way until you reach the Carpathian mountains and thats where the fun begins.

This picture is of a road that was marked yellow on my map and was the route I took to get over the mountains and avoid the main roads. The tarmac ran out after 10km and I was left with a 70km climb up a dirt track cut through the forest. By the time I realised what lay ahead it was too late to turn back and the beware of bear signs painted onto the rock walls made sure I kept a good pace. After a full day slog up this track I finally made the pass and 10 km later and was back on sweet asphalt, and awesome views all the way down the other side. Romania was getting better and better. You never know whats gonna happen next, it's an outrageous place. That night camped in woods a herd of something, and i've no idea what, came stampeding through my campsite. I thought I was dreaming at first until they started to knock into the tent.

If anyone wants to try this route head south out of Sebes down the 67c. The tarmac soon dissappears, and after about 70km you make the pass through the forest at about 1700m. Then its 10km downhill, down the same dirt track until you reach tarmac and the 7A. I headed east after that towards Voineasa over another big pass. My map showed an even higher pass, 2300m, further south towards Novaci but by the time I had reached the tarmac I had run out of food and I could only imagine the state of the track further south. There is also the Moldoveanu pass further east. I think the road is linked by a tunnel through the highest point but I couldn't get any firm details on whether the tunnel is open all year and if you can cycle it.

Sunrise over the pass.

Morning view from the bedroom window.

Later on my bottom bracket seized up. I managed to hitch back to the nearest town where I met John who drove me and the bike all round town looking for spare parts. We never did find any spares but we did find a mechanic who managed to bodge a temporary fix. 70km later it finally gave up as I was passing through a small village. While I was tinkering with the bike at the side of the road, a young man came out of the local shop and asked me in perfect English where I was from and what the was the matter. "No problem" he said, "you can stay with my grandparents and tommorrow we will drive to the next city and fix the bike."!! It seems everyone I met in Romaia couldn't do enough to help. In the end the city bike shops could do nothing for my bike, but we found Illia, an aged village bike mechanic who got me back on the road. Many people warned me be to be careful in Romania and it seems to have a very bad reputation but all that is completely undeserved.

Danny and Illia, repairing the bike Romanian style.

Danny's grand parents, Yon and Maria, who fed and cared for me while the bike was being repaired.