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Count down in Istanbul
It is now two days to go before the start of the inaugural Silk Route Bicycle Expedition. Cyclists and Staff are arriving from all corners of the Globe. Heathrow and Frankfurt have proven to be black holes for bicycles, with many cyclists having their bicycles show up a day or two after themselves. Despite this, and the usual stress of embarking on a long expedition, everyone is fairly relaxed. Old friends have reunited and the bar at the Harem Hotel is loud with old stories and new questions.
Last week was a bit different for myself. It involved driving the length of Turkey, to the Georgian border, and back again. As a final exploration/discovery of the route. Needless to say it was an adventure.
The road ahead in Turkey is hilly, hilly somemore and then a bit more hilly. Combined with the heat at this time of year, the first couple weeks of our Tour provides a great challenge for everyone.
Luckily enough on this last minute scouting mission, many Turkish friends were made who helped out the preparation of the Tour enormously. It is difficult to describe the pecularity with which campsites are discovered, or hotels are booked. In the town of Alucra for example, myself and my scouting friend Cem, met the great Ali. Ali owns a gas station at the edge of town, and with it a 5 story hotel, “the Ritz Carlton of Alucra”, where we will be staying. Within moments of arriving Ali had us going to dinner with him in town, meeting the locals, drinking endless tea. The town was odd as there appeared to be no women in it, but Ali stated that the population grows by a secretive process of “male birth”. After which Ali strung off a long litany of “villager jokes”, told us about the last time he encountered a black bear, then brought us back to the gas station hotel, where he showed us 1500 T.V. channels he recieves via satellite.
Anyway, the road ahead is long and clouded with the unknown. It is inspiring to think how many curious and eccentric local people there will be to meet us along the way. The best is that everything and anything will add up to an amazing story when we reach our finish line.
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