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I’m Not Crying, It’s Just Been Raining – Goodbye Turkey

January 20, 2010

I had company in the form of a support car today. Milo, the camerawoman who followed me for a week in Istanbul, is travelling down to Damascus to do more filming. She hired a taxi driver, and together they followed me all day towards the Syrian border, at speeds ranging from 5 – 55kph. At one point an armoured convoy passed us and 11 or 12 machine gun toting military police swarmed out of the trucks like bugs and surrounded the vehicle. But they were friendly by the time they let us go. 

Having climbed for 12km out of Iskenderun, an industrial town with fantastic views over the Mediterranean, I reached the clouds where visibility was less than 5 metres. The start of the descent was hairy, but as I left the clouds a lush, cultivated valley exposed itself below. I enjoyed the speed of the 15km descent. I reached the valley floor a while later and began a half hour session of laughing and crying, as I reflected on the past 6 weeks spent making my way slowly across Turkey. I arrived with little idea about what to expect and I leave knowing I’ll be back one day soon to experience much more of a great country. 

Every day has brought highs and lows. The lows have generally been related to the heavens, which have been unkind to me, unleashing day after day of torrential rain. But looking like an idiot is a great way of making friends. After hours in the rain, I often stop at a roadside cafe and seek out a “soba” (log burner). Cafes in rural Turkey are always filled with men playing backgammon/ cards and men watching men play backgammon/ cards.  As I stand in the doorway, all eyes fix upon me, the intruder with the strange complexion/ hair/ clothes. I address the room:  “Naber hatunlar” (“What’s up girls?”) and share my enthusiasm for the local weather: “Yağmur, güzel!” (“Rain, beautiful!”) Bemused laughter ensues, while the bar-tender rushes to fetch me a cup of tea. Four cups later my clothes are dry, I offer payment which is refused, and I head off again. The rains have given me some fantastic experiences, and the opportunity to chat and joke with people whom I might have by-passed in the dry! 

It was reflecting on these experiences that brought a tear to the eye today. Turkey has been an eye-opener. I wasn’t expecting the sort of unwavering generosity and friendliness that has been shown to me. The landscapes, particularly on the Central Anatolian plateau, are awe-inspiring and the food is cheap (often free) and delicious. I am very sad to be leaving. But the sense of adventure only increases as I get further away from home. Although Europe was great, I didn’t leave home to cycle through it. I took off on my bike to see places like the Middle East, Africa and India. I am nearly there now.

I didn’t make it to Syria today due to the pounding rain, but I am 9kms away so it would be a bad day on the road if I didn’t make it tomorrow. I will leave you with this video that sums up my time in Turkey, and if anyone is planning a visit soon I’ve got an address book full of turnip, carrot, lettuce, orange and banana farmers who will happily let you stop by for some food, a game of charades and a good wash. See you in Syria.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. January 20, 2010 10:03 pm

    Don’t cry – you’ll start me off.

    Glad you enjoyed Turkey enough to be back one day. Look us up if you are ever within 100 miles of Fethiye.

    Take care and enjoy your onwards

    Cheers

    Barry

  2. Mum permalink
    January 20, 2010 10:24 pm

    Oh Oli, you’ve got me crying now too!

    Glad you ‘re getting on well with the locals. I suppose I’m slightly biased but I’d give you a cup of tea and a meal if you arrived at the door unexpectedly!

    Say Hi to Milo – thank you Turkey and hope Syria is just as welcoming.

    Love Mum xxxxxxxxxxx

  3. Brian Read permalink
    January 21, 2010 7:19 am

    Just LOVING your blogs, very envious of your travels….keep going…..keep enjoying….and the cricket awaits you in….well…..how many months?
    Look foreward to your next installment.
    Brian

  4. fatma akgün permalink
    January 21, 2010 8:44 am

    hope u have a safe travel..kisses from OUR SCHOOL and me!!

  5. January 21, 2010 9:02 am

    Oli, Milo!

    Great vid. Good to see you… Editing, editing, editing over here. More soon, enjoy Syria!

    Laci

  6. Annie permalink
    January 21, 2010 9:21 am

    Europe. Done! woo hoooo pops. Turkey sounds like it’s been truely amazing to you, bar the weather which maybe could have been better. But like you say, you may have pedalled by all those friendly strangers if the sun had been shining. So maybe the weather has been kind in it’s own way too.
    Onto the next leg of the adventure. It’s going to be a good one.
    Keep it up xxxxx
    Ps. when’s the wisden article out?
    pps. why are you wielding a golf club in that top photo?!

  7. Marian permalink
    January 21, 2010 9:27 am

    I’d definitely give you a cup of tea and a meal and even a comfy bed to sleep in. Loving the blogs. You don’t seem so far away. Love you lots and happy pedalling.

    Marian x x x x x x x x

  8. JanUlle permalink
    January 21, 2010 9:42 am

    Oli, so great to follow your blog – Nice to read that you have such a good time, although the rain looks pretty intense! Ride on! Greets from Passau, Jan

  9. Jamie permalink
    January 21, 2010 9:42 am

    Great video Broomy.
    Looks like some unbelievable times being had with some great stories. There’s even a good chance you will be interesting to talk to when you get back! Barring the beard, and girly tears, I find myself rather jealous! Keep up the good work and enjoy Arabia.
    X

  10. katie permalink
    January 21, 2010 9:48 am

    Oh Olly look how wet you are! Has everything gone crinkly?! ha ha

    Northern Africa is going to feel like an oven! I can’t wait to recognise some of the places you visit when you ride over into Egypt and down- you’re going to love it

    enjoy yourself, loving the blogs xx

  11. January 21, 2010 11:22 am

    Great video, looks like you having a work out, is it a new type of home trainer?
    You appear to be in good spirits, so all must going to plan, the Santos Travelmaster and MSG ergonomic bike fitting must be working well.
    Good to see rain doesn’t stop play, you keep pedalling!
    Enjoy Syria, keep up the good blogs.
    Alasdair & Shelagh MSG Bikes

  12. January 21, 2010 3:40 pm

    Glad you enjoyed Turkey – and it was good to you! Hope the rest of the journey is the same but with a little less rain. Will keep reading.

    Take care.

  13. January 21, 2010 4:23 pm

    Nice to see from the map that you got into Syria safely…

    And many thanks for the mention on the video, we were really pleased to meet you and wish you the best for the rest of the journey!

    Let’s show those Down Under that there’s still life in English cricket! (read carefully – unintentional pun in there!)

  14. John Williams permalink
    January 21, 2010 6:51 pm

    Hi Oli, great blogs, glad to hear that you are making good progress and meeting lots of new friends.

    We could do with a few here as the market is still poorly, you are not missing much !!

    Keep it up.

    Regards.

  15. Pauline permalink
    January 21, 2010 7:30 pm

    Abdullah’s my brother! Stayed with him over the December hols. Good luck with the rest of your journey!

  16. guyrigby permalink
    January 26, 2010 8:17 pm

    Not Guy but Nicky , as long as I’m up to date with your blogs on a Tuesday your Mother is happy with me ( Tuesday is our gym and chat day !). I love reading your adventures and gives a very good insight into life behind the resorts and cities . Hope the weather improves soon , as you know its not great over here either. Lots of love ,Oli.
    xx

  17. January 27, 2010 8:22 am

    Oli,

    Enjoy the Arab Republic of Syria. It’s great to hear you had an awesome time in Turkey – I love all the stories. Keep strong, 1 continent down, 2 to go.
    Rob

  18. January 27, 2010 2:23 pm

    Love the fact that you have committed to memory “Naber hatunlar” (what’s up girlS) in the plural!

    Really enjoy reading about your progress. Also hope my email arrived safely with you.

    Will be in touch soon,

    Ed, and the rest of the butler gang!
    ps – hope the weather improves for you!

  19. James Taylor permalink
    January 30, 2010 1:21 pm

    Sounds like you went down a storm in Turkey…. No surprises there as I’ve always had you down as a wet weather specialist – your peformance in a week long rainstorm in Cairns ’99 forms the basis of my confidence!
    Your pictures and vids are wonderful. Have you been recounting wild stories of 5 years behind a desk at K.F? Thought not…
    Beard has to go!
    x JT

  20. James Townsend-Rose permalink
    February 4, 2010 8:12 am

    Hi Oli,

    Turkey looks amazing if not a little wet. On our way now – left on Sunday – and in Chamonix for 4 days skiing! Thinking we will catch up in Sudan or Ethiopia. You are very brave to be doing all this on a bike. Will be in touch soon.
    Keep cycling

    James and Polls

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