If all goes to plan we’ll be leaving Istanbul early on Saturday 26th March, taking a ferry across the Bosporus and cycling towards Russia. The panniers are half packed, the flat is half cleaned and we’ve got just one load of washing left to do before we farewell our fridge, washing machine and much appreciated central heating.
We haven’t done any multi-day bike trips in the last six months, nor spent a single night in a tent, so our excitement is tinged with nervousness about upping sticks again, especially with the diversity of Russia, Mongolia, China and South East Asia between us and our eventual return to New Zealand.
Over winter in Istanbul we have mostly been content to explore the city slowly, read extensively, catch up on films and meet other cycle tourists drifting through. Its been a treat to regularly meet up with Julien and Michelle, a couple who are working in Istanbul for six months before they continue cycling towards Central Asia.
Istanbul is a huge city in an even bigger country and there are parts of both which we will have to leave for a future visit. We didn’t explore as voraciously as we had hoped for, opting to enjoy life indoors on one too many cold winter evenings. After six months we both feel it is time to be moving on leaving the hustle and bustle of the big city behind and stretching our legs (and faded muscles) along the Black Sea coast.
Planning and preparations from Istanbul haven’t always been smooth as we had hoped. As we struggled with the complications of our Russian visas, we were consumed by tiny details – where exactly would the paved road turn to dirt south of UB in Mongolia? Why couldn’t we find details of a ferry that allegedly runs from Trabzon to Sochi? Would we make it out of Turkey before our visas expired? Would the weather ever warm up?
Gear repair solutions were hindered by Turkey being outside the European Union. Some companies were reluctant to send items to us and import duties meant it was cheaper for us to fly to the UK for new kit rather than buy in local shops or risk getting stung by high customs charges.
So, we’re almost off and we are as prepared as we will ever be. It’s when you’re on the road that you realise that all of your carefully laid plans and preparations, or lack thereof don’t really matter as the world will choose what to throw at you with neither rhyme nor reason (…and if it all goes tits up, we can always hitch a lift!)