Cyprus

In order to transit from Turkey to Jordan we travelled via Cyprus so that we could take an onward flight to Amman in Jordan. We took a ferry from Tasacu in Turkey to Girne port in Cyprus, (a journey I would rather forget about after being ill for 5 of the 6 hour journey!). Upon arrival we cycled over the Troodos Mountains to the southern side of the island where we met my parents and our great friend Tamara for a few days R&R. Cyprus was an awesome island to cycle across and a much needed refresh after the European section of our journey and amazing to see my parents and Tamara – it was a fantastic, much needed few days!

Smiles all round having conquered the Troodos Mountains

Smiles all round having conquered the Troodos Mountains

 

Looking back at the Troodos Mountains as we approached the southern coast of Cyprus.

Looking back at the Troodos Mountains as we approached the southern coast of Cyprus

 

Reunited with my parents and best friend Tamara in Cyprus

Reunited with my parents and best friend Tamara in Cyprus

 

A very happy Emily getting in a nice hour long sea swim

A very happy Emily getting in a nice hour long sea swim


If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.

Comments from Facebook..

8 of the strangest places we have camped whilst cycling through central Turkey. #7 was by far our favourite!

8 of the strangest places we have camped whilst cycling through central Turkey. #7 was by far our favourite!

Cycling through  central Turkey has been tough as it’s very hilly.  But the people we’ve met have been incredibly friendly and the hospitality has been amazing.  So much so that we’ve managed to pitch our tent in some rather beautiful and unusual places!

1. On the banks of a reservoir

We pitched our tent on the banks of the Çerkeşli göleti reservoir. The reservoir's banks were dotted with fisherman and we were even given a huge bunch of freshly-picked grapes from the farmers as we pitched our tent

We pitched our tent on the banks of the Çerkeşli göleti reservoir. The reservoir’s banks were dotted with fisherman and we were even given a huge bunch of freshly-picked grapes from the farmers as we pitched our tent

2. Behind trees just below a highway

We simply couldn't cycle any further on this day, so we ducked down below the D170 road (which is just behind the trees) just east of Göynük, Tepebaşı, Turkey.

We simply couldn’t cycle any further on this day, so we ducked down below the D170 road (which is just behind the trees) just east of Göynük, Tepebaşı, Turkey.

3. On a tiny patch of grass at a gas station

After a long day in the saddle, we pitched up at this fuel station in Davutoğlan, Turkey. The extremely friendly staff offered us watermelon, showers and for us to pitch our tent on a small patch of grass adjacent to the petrol station.

After a long day in the saddle, we pitched up at this fuel station in Davutoğlan, Turkey. The extremely friendly staff offered us watermelon, showers and for us to pitch our tent on a small patch of grass adjacent to the petrol station.

4. Behind some reeds right beside a highway

With 115km on the clock, we pitched our tent behind some reeds that shielded us from the road.

With 115km on the clock, we pitched our tent behind some reeds that shielded us from the road.

5. In the bushes behind a 5* hotel

Wild camping in Aksaray, central Turkey

We couldn’t afford to stay at the 5* hotel in Aksaray, Turkey, so we found a wild camping spot on the hill behind it!

6. At a play area in a gas station

We were shattered, so could have slept anywhere. Just as well because the friendly staff at a service station east of Karahamzalı, Turkey, showed us the place to pitch our tent: a children's play area!

We were shattered, so could have slept anywhere. Just as well because the friendly staff at a service station east of Karahamzalı, Turkey, showed us the place to pitch our tent: a children’s play area!

We were shattered, so could have slept anywhere. Just as well because the friendly staff at a service station east of Karahamzalı, Turkey, showed us the place to pitch our tent: a children’s play area! Can you see our tent? Sadly for some kids, we blocked the entrance to the climbing frame for the night.

We were shattered, so could have slept anywhere. Just as well because the friendly staff at a service station east of Karahamzalı, Turkey, showed us the place to pitch our tent: a children’s play area! Can you see our tent? Sadly for some kids, we blocked the entrance to the climbing frame for the night.

7. In an Audi car showroom

We were searching for a place to pitch our tent in the trees between the car showroom and the beach when Doğan came running after us. He said that we could stay 'at his workplace' and we were quickly ushered into the Audi showroom. OK, it wasn't strictly camping. But sleeping in the staff bedroom upstairs was very welcome and a very kind gesture from Doğan and his colleagues.

We were searching for a place to pitch our tent in the trees between the car showroom and the beach when Doğan came running after us. He said that we could stay ‘at his workplace’ and we were quickly ushered into the Audi showroom. OK, it wasn’t strictly camping. But sleeping in the staff bedroom upstairs was very welcome and a very kind gesture from Doğan and his colleagues.

8. Right outside the toilets at a 24-hour motorway services

We thought this patch of grass was suitable. However, it was right outside the toilets, so we had a steady stream of noisy travellers wandering past the tent throughout the night. The grass was also littered with tiny thorns that managed to puncture both our sleeping mats.

We thought this patch of grass was suitable. However, it was right outside the toilets, so we had a steady stream of noisy travellers wandering past the tent throughout the night. The grass was also littered with tiny thorns that managed to puncture both our sleeping mats.


If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.

Comments from Facebook..

Cycling across Turkey: Tough times but fantastically friendly folk

We’d been in Turkey a matter of hours when we swung into a small village to pick up supplies. Outside the shop, a group of men were sat at a plastic table chatting as they stirred sugar lumps into their tiny glasses of Turkish tea. They greeted us with smiles and, eager to know more about the strange foreign visitors on bicycles, they asked us where we were cycling to and we replied ‘Cape Town’. Whilst we went into the shop to buy drinks, they must have had a quick conference amongst themselves because, as we sat in the shade nearby, two of the chaps came straight over to us looking very concerned. “Big problem in Syria!” they warned. “Very dangerous!”

They relaxed visibly when we explained we weren’t going anywhere near Syria or indeed the far east of Turkey (where there are also problems). We continued chatting and we were compliant with their requests for selfies – something we’re getting used to now. One of our new friends then explained that they were gathered because his grandmother had died the night before. At the back of the house we could see the women congregating too, all greeting each other solemnly. Even at a time of grief, we were being welcomed to a country that, over the next few weeks, we would find to be one of the friendliest places on earth.

Turkey was our 11th country and we’d set ourselves two targets that, in retrospect, were a little too ambitious. Firstly, to get from the Bulgarian border at Malko Tarnovo to Istanbul in 3 days in time to meet my parents and, secondly, to get from Istanbul to Cappadocia in the east and onwards to the southern port of Taşucu where we were to catch the ferry to Cyprus; a route we chose to avoid Syria and where we were to meet Emily’s parents for a short break.

We took 3 days to cycle from the Bulgarian border to the centre of Istanbul. We followed the D20 road which took us over undulating countryside. The road itself is being transformed from a single carriage secondary highway to a colossal 6-lane highway. Luckily for us, the newly built road was eerily quiet and we enjoyed the whole carriageway to ourselves. Nearer Istanbul, vast road-construction projects are under way and we got caught up with (literally) hundreds of trucks thundering close by us that were delivering the materials. At one stage, we caused a lengthy tailback as the road turned into a single-lane contraflow and the trucks couldn’t pass us as we cycled at 8kph up a long hill before we found an escape route onto the newly built carriageway the other side of the barrier.

Cycling Turkey D20 road to Istanbul

We had a brand new highway to ourselves!

Cycling the D20 road into Istanbul

We managed to get off the contraflow to avoid the trucks thundering past us: not before causing a lengthy tailback!

On our second day in Turkey we pulled off the highway to find a shop to satisfy our new-found addiction to Magnum ice creams. The friendly shopkeeper refused to accept payment for our late-morning snacks despite our protests and, as we rested in the shade outside his shop, he brought us bread, cheese, grapes and tomatoes for us to take with us.

Cycling through Turkey

The shopkeeper simply refused to accept payment for our drinks and brought us bread, grapes and cheese for us to take with us!

It was fantastic to meet my parents in Istanbul. Although I think they were astonished and somewhat embarrassed at how we both attacked the breakfast buffet at the hotel. After weeks of enduring tasteless muesli soaked in water for breakfast, the prospect of a feasting on fresh fruit, pastries and honeycomb that oozed fresh golden sweetness was too much to resist. It was unsurprising, then, that my saddle broke the moment I picked the bike up from the shop a few days’ later.

We took time to see all the major sights but it was also an opportunity for us to do some vital admin. We got our bikes serviced and our wheels re-built with much stronger rims and spokes.

cycling into Istanbul

We just about made it safely to Istanbul

After four fantastic days in Istanbul, we said goodbye to my folks, sad that the next time I’ll see them is when we reach Cape Town in June, and caught the ferry across the Bosphorus to our second continent of the trip, Asia. Within moments, though, we realised something wasn’t quite right with our new wheels so we diverted to a bike shop and had to wait for an entire afternoon whilst they were sorted. (It turned out they hadn’t been built correctly so they weren’t sitting straight in the forks).

Now behind on our schedule, we booked into a cheap hotel, which we thought was close by. It turned out that it was 35km away and 12km away from where we were expecting it to be. En route, we joined a busy highway but the traffic was crawling along, each car was parading the Turkish flag and there was a deafening sound of horns. We had stumbled upon an impromptu protest.

We later found out that the PKK had killed 16 Turkish soldiers in the east of the country and protesters were making their feelings known by bringing the traffic to a standstill by blocking driving slowly, sounding their horns and waving flags out of the window.

We picked our way through the traffic with the deafening crescendo of car horns all around us as crowds flocked to watch from the bridges above the highway.

We eventually made our way to the hotel in the dark on a very busy road. Something that we vowed never to do again (one of our self-imposed rules is to never cycle at night) but on that occasion, we simply had no other option.

The next day, and a day later than planned, we jumped on the ferry from Pendik to Yalova. The reason for this was simple: There is a cycle path from the Asian side of Istanbul that hugs the coastline all the way to Pendik. After Pendik, the cycle path disappears and cyclists are left at the mercy of the incredibly dangerous (and boring) road eastwards. It was a far safer to catch the ferry to Yalova and continue our journey from there.

We had intended to stay the night in Orhangazi with a contact from Warm Showers, but we were delayed further as we had to visit another bike shop in Yalova for a few more tweaks to our wheels.

After overcoming the huge climb between Yalova and Orhangazi, we spent the day cycling into a headwind beside lake Iznik with olive groves either side of the road, eager to catch up on the miles we’d lost to two unexpected and lengthy visits to bike shops.

We headed to a reservoir we’d spotted on the map to pitch the tent. As we made our way to the bank furthest from the road, we slowed to make way for a tractor pulling a trailer laden with freshly picked grapes from the surrounding vineyards. The young farmers greeted us cheerfully and motioned that we should take some grapes from the trailer. Thanking them, I reached up and grabbed a bunch as their tractor slowly passed, only to realise when I picked it up that each of the bunches were nearly a foot long and half a foot wide! But, after a long day in the saddle, they were the sweetest, juiciest grapes I’ve ever had.

We pitched the tent on the shores of the reservoir where we met a couple of local fishermen who were also camped nearby and who took great interest in trying to help us pitch our tent and chase away the local stray dogs that repeatedly approached. After performing our own rituals of pitching, washing, cooking and eating the the call to prayer drifted in the breeze across the still water as we drifted off to sleep.

We pitched our tent on the banks of the Çerkeşli göleti reservoir. The reservoir's banks were dotted with fisherman and we were even given a huge bunch of freshly-picked grapes from the farmers as we pitched our tent

We pitched our tent on the banks of the Çerkeşli göleti reservoir. The reservoir’s banks were dotted with fisherman and we were even given a huge bunch of freshly-picked grapes from the farmers as we pitched our tent

A beautiful sunrise and the sound of clinking bells woke us. Getting out of the tent we were surrounded by goats that were being herded past us. We had a friendly chat with the herder and I made friends with his huge dogs just enough for them not to take my leg off.

We had a long day in the saddle but the scenery more than made up for the strain on the legs. After a few tough climbs the views opened up to reveal a stunning vista of colourful cliffs and distant mountains that felt like we had been transported onto another planet with beautiful bands of horizontal sedimentary stripes. These were the landscapes you dream about cycling through.

Cycling stunning central Turkey

Cycling stunning central Turkey

With nowhere obvious to camp that evening, we cycled on to a petrol station in the town of Cayirhan and were immediately offered tea by the two gents whose job it was to fill vehicles with fuel. As we chatted, we asked them if they knew any good places that we could camp nearby and, after a little conference in Turkish between them, they very kindly invited us to pitch our tent on the grass beside the petrol station! They also offered us fresh, cool watermelon and, best of all, use of the staff shower. We slept well that night, albeit to the soundtrack of trucks pulling in to be refuelled.

Relying on petrol stations continued to be a theme for the rest of our time cycling across central Turkey. The staff were all really friendly and went out of their way to try and make us comfortable. Further east, we found lots of disused petrol stations that still had small shops. Most were run by Kurdish refugees who talked to us about their struggles. It was incredible that, despite their obvious economic hardship, they would ply us with bread, cucumbers, tomatoes and cheese. We either looked in a horrendous state, or it was their natural and cultural urge to look after visitors and travellers.

After our first night camped at a petrol station, we bid farewell to our new friends and headed north, passing giant coal mining facilities either side of the road. We turned off the main road and descended into a fertile valley, with crops of chillies and fruit being doused in water by vast irrigation systems. We past a large camp of what looked like either refugees or nomadic people working on the crops.

We followed our route, plotted in advance on our GPS, until the small road stopped abruptly. In front of us was a river and, where the bridge should have been, was a pile of rubble. As we stood scratching our heads mulling over how we would get across the torrent, a big JCB digger chugged round the corner, made its way to the water and crossed with ease and disappeared out of view on the far bank. Just as we thought we’d missed our only chance of crossing this remote river that day, the digger reemerged back round the corner, reversed back across the river, the driver jumped out and said he’d give us a lift. Without hesitation, we loaded the bikes and panniers into the digger’s ‘bucket’. Emily hitched a ride in the cab whilst I climbed in with the gear and hung on as he raised the bucket and took us across the river. Sadly, he asked me to delete the photos I took (apart from the one below) because they featured his company’s logo.

The bridge was down so we couldn't cross the river...so hitched a lift in a JCB!

The bridge was down so we couldn’t cross the river…so hitched a lift in a JCB!

Just up the road, we were cycling up the track, sticky with mud, when three huge dogs spotted us. They leapt up and came charging at us. Only at the last second were they restrained by the chains around the neck. Barking and frothing at the chops, they were the most ferocious beasts we’d seen and, had they not been chained, I swear they would have eaten us whole!

The next challenge was a killer climb up to the Anatolian Plain. It was the steepest, longest and toughest test yet and, judging by writing scrawled on the tarmac, it must have been used for cycling races in the recent past. After the relatively flat cycling in Europe, we were finally getting used to the hills but it is still a shock to the system, especially when often you can only manage 6-8kph!

It was another very, very tough day and we just managed to find a wild camping spot behind some reeds next to the road about 5km north of Polati as the sun was setting.

 

Can you see Emily? We take on one of the toughest climbs yet - this photo doesn't do justice to the gradient!

Can you see Emily? We take on one of the toughest climbs yet – this photo doesn’t do justice to the gradient!

The next day we came off the busy highway and onto a quiet country road as we had planned to cycle across Tuz Gölü; a vast salt lake just southeast of Ankara and en route to Capadoccia as I’d spotted on Google Earth that it might be possible to crossTuz Gölü on a causeway and both Google maps directions and my GPS confirmed that the crossing was valid.

The further we cycled from the main road the quieter it became and we were happy to have the countryside to ourselves once more. This was short lived however as the tarmac soon disappeared and the surface changed to a rough track. We rattled along, cursing our decision to take the scenic route.

As we approached the lake, we rounded a corner and 3 soldiers suddenly appeared from the bushes and stopped us. In Turkish, they asked where we were from, what we were doing and one demanded to see our passports. We answered the questions and I managed to dissuade them from seeing our passports by saying that they were buried deep in our panniers. In reality, our passports were in my handlebar bag but, although these fellas were in camouflage uniform, I wasn’t 100% sure who they were so I was reluctant to handover documents to them.

We soon learnt that the Turkish army were using the salt lake for firing practice. In a bewildering game of charades, they were making loud explosion noises. They then waved us on…but I wanted to be certain that we weren’t going to be in the line of fire so I too had to make explosion noises whilst pointing at us and miming death by bomb. Although I’m not Marcel Marceau, I just about managed to establish that we were going to be safe if we stuck to the track.

Later on, and just before we reached the causeway, 2 more soldiers stopped us again tried to ask for our passports. In our best sign language, we managed to let them that them know that we had already met their colleagues round the corner and so they then relaxed and insisted that we eat grapes and drink tea with them. They were pretty impressed and somewhat jealous as we explained our London to Cape Town trip to them; especially when we pointed at their small tent and said that we were camping like them too.

Friendly soldiers at Tuz Gölü

Friendly soldiers at Tuz Gölü

After photos with the soldiers, we made it to the causeway. The salt stretched as far as the horizon in each direction. Behind us, in the distance, we could see the large army trucks in position ready to fire their weapons into the salt plain. Perhaps they also had a-salt rifles too? (My niece Maura will give me 1 out of 10 for that pun!).

Tuz Gölü salt lake went on for miles - and was being used as target practice for Turkish soldiers

Tuz Gölü salt lake went on for miles – and was being used as target practice for Turkish soldiers

After 8 days of genuinely gruelling cycling from Istanbul, we reached Cappadocia: the land of the “fairy chimneys” or, as I prefer to call them (and as you can see by the photos) “phantom phalluses”.

Cappadocia: 'Fairy chimneys' or 'Phantom Phalluses'?

Cappadocia: ‘Fairy chimneys’ or ‘Phantom Phalluses’?

The volcanic rockforms surround Cappadocia and, in their need for fertiliser, past generations carved niches into the rocks so they could collect perching pigeons’ poo. They also carved caves and churches into the hillsides; our hostel bedroom itself was hewn into the hillside.

Cappadocia was stunning. And the ‘done thing’ here is to see the area from above from a hot air balloon which, after a lot of debate, we decided was an opportunity we couldn’t miss. Emily has wanted to fly in a hot air balloon since she was a small girl and what better place to try it out than the best place in the world for hot air ballooning.

So, a very early alarm was set and, just before dawn, we jumped into the basket (with a few others!),

Neither of us had been up in a balloon before. I was excited! Emily was, let’s say, slightly ‘apprehensive’ about the idea and had tears in her eyes as we watched the balloon inflate and climbed into the basket – I’m not sure if they were tears of joy or just complete fear. But, as soon as the ground anchor was released and we started to float, all nerves quickly disappeared. It was simply a magical experience to gently float in the dawn air, above the beautiful rock pillars as the sun crept over the hill to bathe the whole scene in a warm golden light. What’s more, there were about 100 other balloons in the air at the same time, which only added to the spectacle. Without a breathe of breeze in the air, the whole experience was so smooth and calm that the pilot even managed to land the balloon on the trailer.

Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air ballooning in Cappadocia, Turkey

There were over 100 balloons in the sky!

There were over 100 balloons in the sky!

After leaving Cappadocia, we had 4 days to cycle 450km south to the southern port of Taşucu to catch our ferry. A challenge greatened by the climb over the Taurus mountains that separate central Turkey from the southern coast.

At the end of the first day we pulled into a petrol station on the busy E90 road near Yeniköy and got chatting to the three chaps that worked their. We learnt quickly that a) they were Kurdish refugees and b) they liked a drink! They were very happy for us to stay the night there though.

We pitched our tent on a tiny patch of grass by the loos (we thought it would be convenient) and the chaps joined us for a chat whilst we set up the stove and boiled our rice – only a few meters from the petrol pumps. By this time, they’d had quite a few beers…and it didn’t look as though the supply was going to dry up any time soon.

After turning in, we soon found our choice of campsite by the loos was a poor one: each group that passed our tent during the night talked loudly about our presence, keeping us awake. More importantly, our sleeping mats had deflated by the morning. Some rogue thorns had turned them into colanders.

In the morning our new (and slightly hung-over) friends cooked a huge omelette for breakfast and we were invited to join them; yet another example of the hospitality shown to us in the most unlikely of situations.

Saying bye to our new Kurdish friends who hosted us in their petrol station

Saying bye to our new Kurdish friends who hosted us in their petrol station

Our intention was to keep north of the Taurus mountains and cycle along the D350 as far as Karaman before heading over the mountain pass at Mut. It was to be a slightly longer route but the traffic was likely to be a lot quieter. When we got to the junction, however, we could see that our chosen road towards form the E90 to Ereğli had recently been upgraded to a motorway. In practise, the road looked like any other large highway we’d been cycling on in Turkey, but the higher status meant that bikes weren’t allowed.

I unfurled the map on the crash barrier at the side of the road and found another route. This time, a secondary highway that headed directly south in parallel to the E90 motorway and crossed the Taurus mountains at Akçatekir. This would mean crossing the Taurus mountains earlier, by then cycling South West along the coast to Taşucu.

An impromptu change of route!

An impromptu change of route!

We set off and, within 200m, mounds of rubble across the road meant that our diversion route was closed due to resurfacing. Nevertheless, we hauled our bikes over the mounds and set off, with a whole closed carriageway to ourselves, ducking off the road only where the contractors were laying the fresh tar.

Yet another barrier – but we soon had a closed road to ourselves!

Yet another barrier – but we soon had a closed road to ourselves!

It was a very, very tough climb. At points the gradients reached nearly 20% and all we could do was grit our teeth and hold on tight. But we made it to top and found a wild camping spot in the pine trees just north of Çamalan Bucağı. A cheeky fox came to visit us as we cooked and re-visited to take a sniff round the tent just after we’d got into bed, exhausted, 9pm.

After breakfasting at a nearby look-out spot above a beautiful steep-sided mountain valley, the morning’s descent more than made up for yesterdays killer uphill. However, my disc brake pads paid the price, wearing out to the extent that I had minimal brakes for the 25km long descent. It wasn’t the first time that I’ve descended with minimal braking power, however. Thankfully this time didn’t mirror the last occasion, which, when I was 16, resulted in a broken clavicle and a trip to hospital.

We cycled along the horrifically busy road west from Tarsus and got my brake pads replaced at a shop in Mersin. It was now late afternoon so we asked the shop owner if he knew anywhere we could camp. He explained vaguely that there were some woods near the beach behind an Audi garage 15km away and we should head there. We set off.

We found the Audi garage and sat at a fast food place opposite as we waited for the sun to go down before we took our bikes round the back of the building. Just as we were getting to the woods, a guy came running after us shouting “stop”. We both thought we were in trouble. He introduced himself as Doğan and said we should follow him and we were to “stay at his workplace”.

We soon found out that Doğan was a Sales Executive in the Audi Showroom. We parked our bikes in the service area and had tea with him in his office. Just as we thought we were going to roll our sleeping mats out amongst the gleaming cars on display, he took us upstairs to the staff quarters where there was a shower and, best of all, a bathroom with a hot shower.

We were searching for a place to pitch our tent in the trees between the car showroom and the beach when Doğan came running after us. He said that we could stay 'at his workplace' and we were quickly ushered into the Audi showroom. OK, it wasn't strictly camping. But sleeping in the staff bedroom upstairs was very welcome and a very kind gesture from Doğan and his colleagues.

We were searching for a place to pitch our tent in the trees between the car showroom and the beach when Doğan came running after us. He said that we could stay ‘at his workplace’ and we were quickly ushered into the Audi showroom. OK, it wasn’t strictly camping. But sleeping in the staff bedroom upstairs was very welcome and a very kind gesture from Doğan and his colleagues.

Doğan is a keen cyclist and, we learned later, was friends with the guy in the Mersin bike shop that had replaced my brakes. He was planning to cycle 200km the next day, starting at 3pm, so he left us to it and we took over a salesman’s desk to do some admin before heading up to the staff bedroom.

It was yet another example of overwhelming hospitality in the most unlikely of places. We could not have been more grateful forDoğan’s genuine help and hospitality that night – especially when he explained that the woods in which we’d planned to camp were the local hangout for drunks (a rare thing in Turkey!).

In the morning, we had breakfast on another salesman’s desk and chatted to the lonely security guard, whose job it was to sit at the reception desk watching YouTube.

The next day, we’d arranged to meet Doğan for lunch at his cousin’s hotel 40km down the coast. We arrived at noon.  By this time Doğan and his friend had already cycled 120km up into the mountains and back, had a shower, swim and were relaxing by the pool when we arrived. We had fun chatting to them over lunch: something that was noted by one beady-eyed family member who’d been watching our GPS tracker as he sent a message asking if we’d checked into a nice hotel. If only we had, because later that night, we made it to our destination, Tasucu and pitched our tent behind some sand dunes by the sea. Idyllic in theory. In practise, not so great because the dunes were used by the fishermen as a toilet and the sand flies feasted on us as we had our last meal in Turkey. The next day we were set to take the ferry to Cyprus where we were meeting Emily’s parents and our friend Tamara for a few days R&R (well after cycling over the island’s mountains.

Camping on sand dunes may seem idyllic. However, we were attacked by sand flies and we soon found out that the bush we'd used to prop our bikes on was used by the beach-goers as a lavatory.

Camping on sand dunes may seem idyllic. However, we were attacked by sand flies and we soon found out that the bush we’d used to prop our bikes on was used by the beach-goers as a lavatory.

Cycling through Turkey was gruelling. We set ourselves punchy targets before and after Istanbul not quite realising how hilly it was going to be, nor how slowly we cycle up hills carrying so much weight. Throw in the searing heat and it made for very, very tough cycling which left us with only enough time and energy to find a place to sleep, wash and eat each evening before getting up at dawn to repeat the whole process.

But, no matter how tough the cycling was, the genuine friendliness and hospitality of everyone we met – not to mention the beautiful countryside – made Turkey one of the highlights of the trip so far.

Emily has also shared her views on cycling across Turkey on Total Women’s Cycling.


If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.

Comments from Facebook..
Wild camping by the Danube in Romania

Cycling Through Serbia and Romania

After the rugged roads of Hungary, we enjoyed two fantastic days cycling through the north of Croatia where we were treated to beautiful smooth tarmac roads, vineyard, pretty towns and a few hills.  It was a welcome break and we wished we could have stayed longer.  We then arrived in Serbia with quite a welcome.

We crossed the border into a town called Backa Palanka where we were due to make our first stay a host from Warm Showers, an online community of cycle tourers who are willing to offer a bed, sofa or space to pitch a tent in a garden to passing cyclists.  We were a little apprehensive as this was our first experience staying with ‘strangers’ so we thought it might be an idea to get a little Dutch courage in a local bar serving a bottle of beer for 73p (well, it would be rude not to).  What a error in judgement that turned out to be.

Staying with Zoran and his guests in Backa Palanka, Serbia

Staying with Zoran and his guests in Backa Palanka, Serbia

On arrival at our host Zoran’s house, we were welcomed into what he called his “little piece of paradise” with not one but two shots of Rakia as this is, apparently, the typical way to welcome a guest to your home in Serbia.  Thank goodness we had that beer…We then discovered that we were not Zoran’s only guests that night as two Spanish girls and a German guy who were touring Serbia on bikes were also guests, they’d just popped out to buy some beer.  Excellent.  So, feeling that we needed to get into the swing of things, we duly popped out to get a few beers and on our return we found that Zoran’s mum was also staying and had cooked us all dinner; a traditional Serbian pastry based meal with tomatoes from the garden.  A couple of beers, some food and good conversation with our new friends learning more about our fellow guests. Zoran told us how he had spent much of his childhood refugee camps during the Kosovo crisis, however we did subsequently learn that he now had a successful career in the construction business and had traveled around Europe working on some great projects.  That was until he quit a few days before as he’d fallen out with his boss.

Around 9.30pm I was thinking, what a great evening, I’m looking forward to a shower and a good night’s sleep, when Zoran stood up and said, “Emily, James…quick shower and we get ready to go to out” [sic]. Panic set in.  We had 150km the next day planned into Belgrade, and had already had a few beers, and that Rakia.  But, what can you do?  Your host wants to party, and is allowing you to stay in his home for free, along with some peer pressure from the Spanish girls, (OK we didn’t need that much convincing) we duly showered and headed out to the local night spot, a small bar in town. What a fun time. Turns out that all the people in the bar where a similar age to us, and all grew up watching Only Fools and Horses and ‘Allo ‘Allo (a little awkward when explaining to the German member of our group) so many jokes were shared and appreciated.

Around 12.30, a few more compulsory Rakias later (it is rude to say no to a host after all…..) we headed home. We could not wait to get to sleep but it turns out that Zoran on the other hand had other ideas. On arrival back home he turned up the drum and base, stripped down to his shorts and started prancing around the house. Evidently he had been on the Rakia all day. Excellent. After a while, we were starting to contemplate finding somewhere to camp when he realised that we might actually need to sleep so showed us to a room on the other side of his house that we could sleep in and within minutes we were asleep.

The 7am alarm the next day was not remotely fun, nor was the cycle along the flooded cycle paths into Novi Sad, around 40km away. Here we had some food, drank a lot of coke and water and continued towards Belgrade.

With about 50km to go, and heads still pounding, we stopped for another Coke at a small shop and got chatting to an old guy with broken English.  When he discovered where we were from and how far we were cycling, he put his arm around James and started a rendition of ‘It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”.  James joined in the best he could whilst two other men, sipping their beers on a nearby bench, looked on with a look on bemusement.

We continued our ride into Belgrade where, thankfully, we had booked into a cheap guesthouse on the outskirts of the city.

Belgrade is not a beautiful place.  The city felt the full impact of the 78 day sustained bombings in 1999 during the Kosovo War as part of the NATO attempt to stop human rights abuses. The country as a whole has struggled to re-build the infrastructure and as a result the city is still under repair. One building has been left in its bombed state as a memorial and a reminder of the past.

Serbia2-6
Ministry of defense building in Belgrade damaged during the 1999 NATO bombing.

One day in Belgrade gave us a good flavour of the city and the underlying history however it was tricky be feel anything other that underwhelmed after all of the beautiful cities that we have been lucky enough to travel through. Apparently the night life in Belgrade is some of the best in Europe and therefore it is possibly worth a visit for the party animals out there.

President of the Republic of Serbia Building

President of the Republic of Serbia Building

The next day saw our departure from Belgrade and a shorter ride to a small Serbian town called Kovin. Although short, it was certainly not without its excitement. Belgrade is the steepest city I have ever visited, it baffles me why such a big city has developed on quite such steep slopes – all very well for the views and defensive position, but not so good for cyclist. A long ride uphill out of the city on a pretty main road which kept us on our our toes.

Once we were out of the city, we were greeted by our first set of unfriendly dogs. In this part of the world the dogs are real pests and we are expecting them to get worse. Dogs don’t like bicycles very much and so often they will chase you as you pass. When you struggle to reach 20km/hr on the flat, that can pose a problem, especially on hills as the dogs  are faster than you. We’ve been told that if you stop and get off the bikes, then they realise that you are humans and tend to back off. So far, this has worked out fine. With no owners, and no birth control, these dogs have freedom of the streets and breed like crazy, feeding off whatever they can get hold of.  On this occasion, we were greeted with around 7 dogs who all appeared out of the bushes barking furiously at us and chasing us up the road. With a deep breath, we stopped and got off the bikes and thankfully they ran off. But my goodness, I was happy to have passed them. Luck however was not on our side as we descended a relatively steep hill to be greeted by a security guard. Oh no…..what had we done? Apparently we were about to cycle through a huge nuclear facility. Not so good. So we turned around and of course, the only road out was up the steep hill past the dogs…..well, we are still here to tell the tale.
Cycling past Serbia's aggressive dogs

Cycling past Serbia’s aggressive dogs

Just outside Kovin while we were looking for a spot to camp, we chanced upon a small guesthouse on the banks of the Danube run by a charming couple called Draga and Ale who allowed us to camp in their garden. I was particularly amused by the photo of us they put onto their blog – which I believe to be a conversation as to whether we should have our helmets on or off for the photo but looks like we’re having an argument!

The next day we entered Romania, our 8th country and a country I had been really excited to visit.

Romania border crossing

Romania border crossing

Soon after crossing the border we were greeted by a 6km climb over a large hill which was by far the longest climb for a while and with a 12% gradient it definitely got the heart pumping again. Actually it felt good to be back on the hills as we have a lot coming up so it was good to start to get some climbing again. A descent into a town called Moldova Veche and we promptly looked for somewhere to stay. The town is right alongside the Danube and a lady in the town told us that around 6km further along is a great place to camp. We were not disappointed and so we dipped down off the road to set up camp on the side of the river just in time for a beautiful sunset.

Wild camping by the Danube in Romania

Wild camping by the Danube in Romania

The next day we were up early and continued our journey along the river.  The next 100kms were the most beautiful yet and a day’s cycling that I will never forget. A national park runs either side of the river – Romania on one side, Serbia on the other as the river travels through a giant gorge. It meant is was pretty hilly but with long winding switch backs and the views that we experienced as we meandered up tree lined roads overlooking the river, we were happy to climb all day long. It was breath taking. It is clear that Romania is investing in the area as we saw a number of new hotels, even water villas, being built along the river. I hope it does not become too developed as it is such a beautiful, peaceful place to come to escape the outside world. At the end of the day came a big climb to cross over where the river narrows from nearly 1000 to 150m at at area known as the Gates of Trojan. We had been recommended to pause at the summit and walk up to the very top of the cliffs so we stopped at a local shop for a cold drink, left our bikes with them and made our way up the very steep slope on foot to the view point. I’m not too keen on heights so the experience at the top was a little hair raising for me, especially as I watched James clamber on the rocks to get “the shot”!
Beautiful Danube gorge in Romania

Beautiful Danube gorge in Romania

A lovely descent ended the day where we stayed alongside the river.

From our best day on the road, to the worst. James wrote a blog about this already.

I’ve loved Romania – the people have been incredibly friendly wherever we have been. The older population tend to stare quite but they will wave and the children shout out Hello! Hello! Welcome! in every village, it’s been really good fun. It would not be Romania landscape without the traditional horse and carts flying past delivering farm goods and people around. It seems however that when driving a cart, it is compulsory to do so while drinking a 2 litre bottle of beer. Perhaps that is why everyone here is so friendly.

Our last day in Romania brought with it our first real mechanical issue with the bikes as I broke two spokes on my rear wheel. Having never fixed a spoke ourselves, we were bracing ourselves to work out the hard way, when a man approached us to see if we needed some help. Before we knew it, we had been whisked off to a back street bike shop where my wheel was taken away for repair. While we waited, the man who brought us there, Cezar, decided to stay with us and even bought us a drink and some local food. He was a sports massage student with a brother who was a doctor in London so he was happy to practice his English while telling us that the Romanians like to travel to England and the women are so nice. Hmmmm….

Sunset Turnu Măgurele Romania

Beautiful sunset as we cross the Danube for the last time from Turnu Măgurele Romania to Nikopol, Bulgaria

We managed to catch the last ferry across to Bulgaria where we managed to pitch the tent on the banks of the river Danube for one last time before we said goodbye to the river the next morning. It was a poignant moment for us both as we have been following the river for over 5 weeks now.

If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.

Comments from Facebook..

Inside Buzludzha: The derelict monument to Bulgaria’s Communist past

Today we took time off the bikes to visit Buzludzha; the former home of Bulgaria’s Communist Party.

Built in 1981 at a cost of over £5m, the building has fallen into disrepair since the fall of the iron curtain in 1989.

The Bulgarian government do not have the funds to either restore or demolish the eerie building, so it lies in its derelict state as a monument to the country’s troubled past.


If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.

Comments from Facebook..

A day I’d rather forget

It had to happen to one of us sooner or later. It just happened to be me that was first. What started as a good day, later descended into one I’d rather forget.

The day started well; we woke to beautiful misty views across the Danube and, after a quick bowl of cereal, we were on the road by 08:30.

Misty morning on the Danube near Eşelniţa, Romania

Misty morning on the Danube near Eşelniţa, Romania

There was sharp climb out of the village then, a few KMs into the ride, we joined the E70: a main trunk road adjacent to the Danube. After cycling on the Euro Velo 6 path and quiet country roads, it was a shock to the system to have countless lorries thunder past us. To be fair, there was a reasonable hard shoulder and the majority of the trucks gave us gave us plenty of room; but it was a bit hairy when we had to cycle through a tunnel with a juggernaut bearing down on us from behind.

The traffic eased off but the terrain didn’t. We started ascending the day’s main climb, which was about 6km long at 8%-10% gradient. It was now midday and we felt the full force of the sun on our faces. Sweat dripped from my forehead and pooled on the inner rims of my sunglasses until it poured, in one go, onto my shorts, mixing with the salt patterns that had already formed on my thighs from the previous days’ cycling.

At the summit, I spied a patch of shade by a layby and called for a quick time out out to get my breath back. As soon as I stopped the bike I didn’t feel well, but I couldn’t quite place why.

I managed to prop my bike up and leant against a concrete buttress at the side of the layby. Suddenly, a huge wave of dizziness hit me. The world in front of me rotated but I couldn’t focus on it. My legs went weak and, had I not had my back against the wall, I’d have fallen to the ground in the litter-strewn ditch.

I took a step forward and lay down on the filthy floor. A mangy mutt approached and licked its lips as If I were to be his first and only meal for the month.

At this point, Emily took over. She mixed a High5 energy drink and commanded me to drink it whilst force-feeding me sugary sweets.

Once I felt a little better, we decided to find somewhere more comfortable to rest so crossed the road towards a small stand where two kids were selling honey. Beside their stand was a large metal box, which was in the shade, so I motioned to them that I wanted to sit on it. They agreed that I could, but without looking me in the eye.

I sat on the box, tilted my head back and closed my eyes. I could hear buzzing. Was this a symptom of the dizziness? I opened my eyes and saw a cloud of bees buzzing by my head. It was only then that I released that the metal box I was sat on was one of the many mobile bee-hives we’ve seen in the fields throughout Serbia and Romania. I had sat on a beehive! The kids selling the honey looked on blankly, possibly wondering why anyone would do such a thing.

Emily got the stools out and, after another High5 and sugary sweets we moved on and tentatively took on the descent.

Emily decided it was time to eat, so a few KMs further on, we found a grassy spot under a big tree outside a police station. Sandwiches were consumed slowly; with every mouthful I had the overarching desire to fall asleep.

We discussed weather we should continue or find somewhere to rest up. I wanted to continue but, every time I got to my feet, I immediately had to lie down again. Emily was clearly concerned as to whether we should continue. I wanted to give it one last go because we still had over 80km to do so, after my 5th attempt, I made it onto the bike and back on to the road.

With about 75km on the clock, and the same distance again to go, we stopped at a petrol station to stock up on water. Sadly, with my first sip of water, my sandwiches reappeared in a somewhat more diluted form as a puddle by my feet.

However, I almost instantly felt better.

I got back on the bike and I plodded on, keeping on Emily’s back wheel for a further 25km along the trunk road. (No change there, some might say!).

We stopped at another fuel station and, as Emily went in to buy more water, I lay on my back on the paving at the side of the kiosk. This, apparently, caused a scene and, as Emily emerged from the shop, a couple of motorists asked her if I was OK. Right on cue, I scurried to the grass verge to be ill again. My body simply wasn’t taking in all the liquid I’d consumed.

Emily had a quick conference with a motorist who’d stopped and asked about accommodation nearby. The closest being 25km away. Our intended destination was still 40km away.

Again, I felt marginally better after being ill, so we got back on the bikes to see how further we could get. By this time, I’d lost all strength and if was an effort just to look at Emily’s back wheel let alone keep up with it.

It was a touh decision to make but, in the state I was, It would not have been possible to complete the 40km to our intended destination, Calafat.

We plugged the nearest accommodation into the sat nav and made our way towards that, 2km as the crow flies, but an agonizing 7km by road. All I wanted to do was lie down and go to sleep but Emily was really keen that we slept near to civilization and not in a field (just for peace of mind).

With 5km to go, the final hurdle was a short and steep hill; which I simply didn’t have the energy to climb. I looked at the map and thought I could see an off-road route that would bypass the hill so we pulled onto a track, where two farmers watched as I was ill again at the side of the road.

I was wrong about the shortcut so, we had to take on the hill. However, I simply didn’t have the energy. About a quarter of the way up I had stopped and Emily put her bike to one side, ascended on my bike and left it at the top, then ran down to walk with me and her bike up the hill. I simply couldn’t ride or push the bike up to the top, I cannot remember ever feeling this weak. I knew in my head it was only about 5km more to go, now downhill but it took every once of energy, and a lot of gentle encouragement to get me to the hotel on the banks of the Danube, some 30km short of our intended destination.

Emily was told that ‘they were full as they were holding s festival’ but after a bit of pleading and pointing in my direction (I was now a familiar position lying on my back at the side of the road) the hotelier miraculously found us a room.

I was ill once more en route to the bedroom, to the surprise of the hotel workers but once I was inside, it was a quick shower then a power nap.

We put the day’s episode down to dehydration. And it’s no surprise really. We’ve been cycling in temperatures in the late 30s and, foolishly, we haven’t been stopping for enough water since we have been in Romania – I think this is because there has not been a water pump in every village we pass through. Foolish in hindsight. I remembered that I hadn’t really drunk anything the night before whereas, normally, we’d drink at least a litre of water in the evenings.

Emily mixed up two rehydration sachets during the evening and, although I wasn’t able to eat anything, I spent the evening sipping salty drinks whilst listening to the sounds of the music and film festival outside.

The hotel itself was wonderful. It’s owned by a poet and they have various cultural events throughout the year. It was very tempting to stay another night there but, after a good breakfast, I managed to find a 30km shortcut meaning we didn’t have to add on yesterday’s missed mileage to reach tonight’s destination, Bechet where, I’m writing this sipping a water and feeling, thankfully better.

A lesson was learnt the hard way but we are both glad we have some decent first aid knowledge that allowed us to monitor our situation and stay safe.


If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.

Comments from Facebook..
Serbia border crossing

Serbia border crossing

Serbia border crossing

Crossing the border from Croatia into our 8th country, Serbia.


If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.

Comments from Facebook..

From Passau to Budapest

Since we last blogged, we’ve travelled around 700kms and have been followed by what seems to be an ever increasing army of ants and other insects; and they are growing! Now don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t expecting the insects of Europe and Africa to lay down the red carpet for us but they do seem to be getting more and more tenacious as we venture further from home.  Take this morning when I went to brush my teeth; I opened the toothpaste to find not one, but around 50 ants who had made home for the night in the lid of the brush, it bemused me how on earth they all got in there! Then there was the giant wasp. I know I can potentially, from time to time, be prone to exaggerating a little but it was seriously big – at least the size of my little finger and it had its eyes on our breakfast yesterday morning which meant James sat down and ignored it and I pranced around like I was dancing on hot coals for the next 15 minutes.

Oh, and it has been HOT. The thermometer has been averaging over 40 degrees Celsius in the sun most days – today we left the bikes in the sunshine for 10 minutes while we stopped for an ice cream which was half melted because even the freezers can’t cope with the heat and it had reach 48.9 Celsius.

Heat aside, what a week we have had! This was always going to be the fun 10 days with the Danube flowing through Vienna, Bratislava and Budapest – and only around 400km between them all, you can’t go too far wrong!

The road through Austria took us from Passau (and the drunk students) to a city called Linz, which boasts a big church and lots of pretty cobbled streets, not so fun on a really heavy bike. Actually, if you speak to those who have stayed longer, it is packed full of cool stuff and some great museums. It was Sunday when we arrived and in Europe this means that everything is closed, apparently that also means that campsite staff can’t be bothered to work so we enjoyed a free night at a small campsite just outside the town. Here we bumped into an Italian family from Trento we have seen at a few campsites now. They were travelling for two weeks as a family across Germany and Austria on their bikes and having a fantastic time. The father came and spoke to us telling us how much they had been enjoying their trip and how close they had all become, it was rather lovely until he insisted on taking our photo so that he could show all his friends in Italy the crazy English people who are cycling to Africa!

That’s the thing with travelling in the slower lane, you get some time to meet some new and interesting people along the way and share in a little segment of each other’s lives. We’ve met some great people along the way so far, but I know we’ll get to meet even more when the road becomes more remote and people more willing to chat.

From Linz, it was onto Melk, which boasts an even bigger cathedral and is a stop off on the Danube river cruise tour. Luckily (well not really) the ships docked outside our campsite so we were able to use their free wifi to check up on the world. Again, we were treated to another free night due to a lack of staff at campsites, but we weren’t complaining and we made our way to Vienna.

 

Melk Abbey

Melk Abbey

The road to Vienna was another scorcher and a longer cycle with around 130kms on the clock but it was more than worthwhile. On our approach to Vienna we passed by what seemed more like the Costa Brava then Austria. In the summer, the Austrians turn the riverbanks into their own beach resort complete with beach bars, shisha, Greek taverns and lines of cocktail bars each with their own happy hour to shout about. As much as we were gasping for a cool drink we carried onto the city campsite. A thoroughly miserable experience that was. A campsite made for caravans, all the tents were shoved at the back where there is limited space so meant that we were all camped like sardines in the heat. We had hoped to stay with my good friend George and his wife Charlotte however timing was against us and they were out of town.

Thankfully, we were rescued the next morning with the offer to stay with the lovely Wendy, a friend of my friend Catherine who, until recently, lived in Vienna. Wendy took us under her wing for a couple of days and we were treated like royalty and we are extremely thankful.

It was fantastic to meet Wendy, who looked after us so well!

It was fantastic to meet Wendy, who looked after us so well!

Vienna is a must see, I can’t go into detail here about what to see and why, perhaps I’ll write a separate blog at some point but it really is quite magnificent. If you’ve not been before, go visit – but a word of advice, don’t book the Spanish Riding School practice, it is horses practicing how to trot and not much more and if you are into Opera or music, book before you go and don’t get conned into the tourist traps (thankfully we didn’t).

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Don't bother paying to watch the 'practice'!

The Spanish Riding School in Vienna. Don’t bother paying to watch the ‘practice’!

From Vienna, onto Bratislava, the home of the stag and hen parties. I am pretty sure that isn’t how they market themselves, but it is a sad reality. The cheap hotels and beer drive them in in their hoards and we were to arrive on a Saturday night. We went to check into our hotel first – welcome to Slovakia. Wow. We decided to stay in a hotel as it would allow us a couple of nights in a bed and for less than a tenner each, it seemed good value in comparison to city camping. Actually, the hotel wasn’t all that bad, it seemed like an old communist army block so was very functional and lacked any soft touches and was on 4 floors, which when you are on the third floor and you have so much heavy kit, not so ideal. I think it was at this point where James decided to fall out with reception. I’m going to leave that story for him to tell, as I can’t see I will do it justice and I wouldn’t want to misinterpret what happened…

Emily's verdict on hotel Turist, Bratislava

Emily’s verdict on hotel Turist, Bratislava

A day to catch up on admin and then we headed into town to see the sites – the old town of Bratislava is beautiful but outside that there is not much so we pedaled 20km out of town to spend the afternoon by a lake. I swam and read a book and James was instantly transformed into a 10 year old as he spent the majority of the afternoon armed with the Go Pro trying to find a snake that had swam across the section of the lake we were sitting at into a pile of reeds. Most amusing to watch.

And then it was into Hungary, our 6th country. We knew pretty much as soon as we had crossed the border as the fantastic Eurovelo 6 bike path that we have been following since the Black Forest in Germany disappeared almost instantly. The signs were there but our managed paths had now become main roads or dirt tracks through forest and woodlands – all good and well on a full suspension mountain bike, not so much on ours. I kept telling myself it was great training for Africa…. but our bikes have taken a battering.

The beautifully-surfaced Euro Velo 6 comes to an abrupt and bumpy end in Hungary!

The beautifully-surfaced Euro Velo 6 comes to an abrupt and bumpy end in Hungary!

We’re back into camping after a few nights in a bed and are back into a good routine. We’ve got a good system going on now and have even managed to get “our” morning admin down from 2 hours to under an hour. Quite miraculous. We feel incredibly lucky to be experiencing so many fantastic sites, many of which we would never usually have chosen to visit, it really is worth going off the beaten track and move outside the tourist traps from time to time and experience life in different countries and cultures. We are still enjoying every moment. It was not an easy decision to come and do this, but I am so glad that we’ve taken the plunge and cannot wait for the next stage where we get more remote and the campsites disappear and we start to fend for ourselves.

Back to Hungary, and we’ve enjoyed our three days cycling through the country so far. We’ve broken the our stay with stopovers in some prominent towns on the Danube (Györ and Esztergom) both with beautiful main squares and Esztergom has an incredible Basilica and castle with original Michelangelo artwork.

Hungary-8

About 40km outside Budapest we stopped in a small village to get a drink when we were approached by a man, Peter who had seen the London2CapeTown logos on our cycling Shirts and wanted to find out more about our trip. It wasn’t before long that we were whisked off to his family home where we were treated to some watermelon and home made lemonade with Peter and his family. Such kindness is rare in this world, just imagine someone in London stopping a stranger on the street and offering them a cup of tea. It’s how life used to be and should be – Peter, thank you for your hospitality and we hope we can welcome your family in London one day in the future.

Meeting Peter and family near Tahitótfalu, Hungary

Meeting Peter and family near Tahitótfalu, Hungary

We finally made it to Budapest around 5pm and it was well worth a long few days in the heat to get here. The view of the Parliament building on arrival is truly exquisite and quite frankly jaw dropping. We’d been weaving in and out of industrial roads with no views and suddenly we turned a corner and could see the view of the city from the corner of our eyes. Wow. Not often a view will take your breath away but this one did.

Beautiful views as we arrived in Budapest!

Beautiful views as we arrived in Budapest!

As soon as we arrived we managed to check our bikes into a shop for a quick service to check nothing major was wrong – the wheels were a bit wonky so we gathered into the poor mechanic’s workshop to try to watch what he was doing to straighten them up. Not sure they appreciated us hovering over them while they serviced our bikes, but I think we picked up a few new tricks! Other than being a bit wonky, they seemed ok and have been checked over and tightened up and good to go on to Istanbul.

For now, we have two days in Budapest and cannot wait to get exploring.


If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.

Comments from Facebook..

Austria

Comments from Facebook..

A taste of Hungary


If you’ve enjoyed reading this blog post, please donate to World Bicycle Relief. Every penny goes to the great work the charity does in Africa – not to fund our expedition in any way.

Comments from Facebook..