Saturday, 26 May 2012

25 May Stage 42 Ciftlik - Fethiye

Dep  3.15      Arr  4.00      Dist  13.2 km      Total
This was to be the final stage of an epic journey, a short, flat ride of 12 km or so accompanied by members of the Fethiye Cycling Club and other groups and various members of the public. It was the toughest day of them all. I was apprehensive all morning and just wanted to get it over with. I am not into speeches and photos and interviews and videos etc, but I knew it had to be done to maximise the income for the charities.

It wasn't that bad. Keith and young Adam took me down the road from where the other cyclists were convening and dropped me off at a petrol station in Yaniklar so that I could ride into the waiting crowd with maximum effect. I had a half hour or so to wait and used the time to go over my speech, hoping that I wouldn't need to make one.

The time came and I set off. After ten minutes I could see them all there and I rode in to warm applause and just the right amount of backslapping. Terry presented me with a yellow tee shirt announcing my achievement and we all set off with a police car in front leading the way. There were pockets of people at a number of junctions cheering and clapping and I actually became slightly emotional once or twice. Horns were honking as we rode into Fethiye and the crowd at the Fethiye Evi was amazing. There was a brass bad playing and cameras clicking and people cheering and clapping. I was stood there with a genuine grin on my face, slightly, no, more than slightly, embarrassed but loving it all the same.

I was ushered to the stage where I climbed onto the podium used for the proper cycling event, the Presidential Tour of Turkey. I was presented with a red and white garland, proper colours. Cameras were clicking all the time, speeches were made, by Terry, by the honourary British consul and then, by me. I think I got away with it. Things calmed down a bit then and a lot of people came and introduced themselves and congratulated me and shook my hand. It was all very pleasant and not really the ordeal I had expected.

While this was all going on we had some excellent Turkish dancers who were actually English and Scottish. There were then two chaps playing instruments and singing very nicely and I had a number of conversations with well-wishers and FIG members. We, the whole nine family members present, were then invited for a meal by the manager of the Monta Verde hotel in Ovacik, which we gratefully accepted and will be taking advantage of on Saturday evening.

It was a great day, a truly wonderful and heartwarming occasion and a day I will never forget but then there have been forty two days preceding this day that I will never forget either.

The deed is done. I have achieved what I set out to do, which was to ride from my home in Wigan, UK to my other home in Calis Beach, Fethiye, Turkey, a distance of approximately 2,500 miles or 4,000 km.

Thank you to everybody who has shown their support along the way. On occasions I felt all of the good wishes behind me in the form of a helping hand pushing me along. There were times I needed a helping hand and it was very much appreciated.

I have finished now and will enjoy a little holiday here in Calis each, but the people who work for these charities, Wigan and Leigh Hospice and the Fethiye International Group, will be out there tomorrow and the day after and the day after that, etc,doing what they do, which is quite simply to give up their time to make other people's lives better. I just hope that anyone who has read and enjoyed this story has made an appropriate contribution which will enable them to continue to carry out their wonderful work.


24 May Stage 41 Ortaca - Ciftlik

Dep  11.15      Arr  3.15      Dist        Total 

Shaun dropped me off where he had picked me up the day before, that is, on the OTHER SIDE of Ortaca. We had figured on the way that I wouldn't be allowed through the Gocek tunnel on the bike and I wasn't really up to going over that hill. Shaun then offered to wait for me by the tunnel and bring me through. The plan was that he and Keith would go for some breakfast and then meet me at the toll booth. They went and after a minute or two I was ready and I set off after them at a leisurely pace. After 20 mins or so I saw the car at the side of the road and saw they were just having their food brought out. Shaun kindly offered me some but I had had my honey nut corn flakes so I declined and said I would just see them at the tunnel. It was a slog and a half up to the tunnel. I thought I'd be there in ten minutes but I actually only got there about half an hour after I saw them at the cafe so I was hoping they hadn't rushed their food. I was struggling a bit maybe because of the premature celebrations from the night before. It was only when I saw the profile the day after that I realised it was a similar length and climb to the famous Saddleworth Moor. The lads hadn't rushed their food and they arrived a couple of minutes after me. We got the bike in and they dropped me the other side and I set off again. There were another three fairly difficult climbs but I took my time and got to my apartment at Zakkum Villas to complete the penultimate stage.

After a fantastic shower in my own place I had an hour's rest and then went up to PJ's to see the lads from the guitar club. They were practising for a 'gig' on Saturday but took the time to congratulate me and offer their support for the final ride in to Fethiye on Friday. I just had one drink and went back for a lie down. I managed another hours sleep and a bite to eat and then Terry came for a chat with Marg and me about last minute arrangements for Friday and about the kind of things FIG do for the local kids and those from the surrounding areas. It was quite fascinating to find out about the days out and visits FIG provide for these children, some of whom are extremely poor and it made me feel particularly good about my efforts allowing them to continue this good work. After Terry went I was a bit knackered but managed another beer before retiring. It is essential I recover my drinking capacity before too long. I have lost about 24 pounds in weight and will enjoy putting it back on - no danger.

Today's track

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

23 May Stage 40 Mugla - Ortaca

I have just been informed that there has been a change to the 'riding in' schedule on Friday. We will all be convening at Ciftlik at about 3 pm and leaving for Fethiye at about 3.30 to arrive at about 4.00 which is an hour later than originally planned.
Nice sunny morning. A few clouds about but no real threat. A bit breezy but I'm mostly downhill or flat today. Breakfast, then off.

Breakfast was the same as yesterday but I managed to make it in time for a boiled egg. Hooray. Today, the jam butties won but the cups of tea ran it close. 6 - 3. I then took ages getting ready and set off just after ten o'clock for my rendezvous with Phil and Pete who had been in touch via the blog and had offered to accompany me down the hill. There was a bit of an uphill soon after Mugla - and it was expected - and soon after, I turned off to Ula where I had arranged to meet the lads. Ula was a nice little place with thousands of old bikes on the streets. I have never seen so many in a Turkish town or village. The asphalt road changed into narrow windind paved streets and there were no signs indicating the way out. I made a number of inquiries and did a couple of laps and eventually made my way out.

I eventually came across two chaps with white tee-shirts on clapping as I got nearer and figured out these were my pals for the day. Phil and Pete were from Sheffield and Bristol respectively and lived in places away from what we would all consider as tourist areas. We went on for a bit, chatting away, good style, and then stopped for a most welcome break at what looked like a little farm, for a load of honey and bread and Turkish tea. We then careered down the hill and took a few good photos and then these lads, who I feel will be friends for life, made their way back westwards and I went on to the road to Ortaca.

I met up with my friends there and had a great reunion and am currently enjoying great company with a drink or two and a couple of short stages ahead.

Today's track

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

22 May - Rest day Mugla

I enjoyed waking up this morning at 7.20, realising I wasn't going anywhere and turning over several times. Breakfast finished at 9.30 and I only just made it. It was Turkish breakfast, buffet style which meant four cups of tea and lots of jam butties with the odd olive and slab of cheese. All the boiled eggs had gone. Serves me right.

I went for a wander this morning and changed some money, had a haircut with all the works, and bought a few nick-nacks. I had a chicken doner and a beer for lunch and have been replying to emails and sorting out paperwork this afternoon. I also looked at a few flights home which was a really weird feeling.

I actually had a sleep this afternoon for a couple of hours which surprised me. I felt OK but I must have needed it. I had my tea and a couple of beers quite late over the road. I couldn't be bothered walking any further. Walking isn't for me anymore. I need wheels. Ominous.

I will be leaving at around 10.00 tomorrow and heading for Ortaca. Just after the village of Ula, I will hopefully be meeting up with Phil and Pete who contacted me through comments on the blog. There is a long downhill section then with apparently astounding views. At Ortaca I will be meeting friends who will be accommodating me for the night. I am really looking forward to meeting up with them again. Thursday will see me make my way to Ciftlik where I will stay with more friends at a secret location before meeting up with the entourage for the ride in to Fethiye on Friday which will be a fantastic experience for me and one I'm looking forward to very much, and not just because it's the end of the ride.

I have just been informed that there has been a change to the riding in schedule on Friday. We will all be convening at Ciftlik at about 3 pm and leaving for Fethiye at about 3.30 to arrive at about 4.00 which is an hour later than originally planned.

Monday, 21 May 2012

21 May Stage 39 Cine - Mugla

Dep  9.15      Arr  3.00        Dist  63.8 km      Total  3871.3 km

After taking advantage of the limited blogging opportunity in the noisy internet cafe Christoph and I went hunting for some food. I had sort of had my way with chicken shish at dinnertime so he was understandably insistent on his favourite, corba, which is soup, and we wandered around for a while trying to find an appropriate place. I was a bit knackered and I let the old guy have his way but we just couldn't find a soup kitchen. We actually ended up in a fast food pizza express next door but one to the hotel after a full lap of the town centre (about 400m) I ordered chicken shish with chips and ended up with pide which is a pizaa on bread, and no chips Christoph had the most enormous pizza which he wolfed down. I fancied a beer, surprise, surprise, but there were no obvious outlets so we went to our respective rooms for the night.

It's worth describing our arrival at the hotel at this point. I had my plan sorted. Separate rooms. Chris must have some Yorkshire blood and he actually considered sharing and kicked of good style about there being no breakfast. I've got some stuff on my bike but he's got twice as much, for obvious reasons. Either of us would have filled a double room with the contents of our bags. Anyway, 70ytl for a double, 40ytl each for a single - no contest We just assumed there would be wifi and we took our stuff up three floors only to find there wasn't any. I actually considered loading the bike up again but the proximity of an internet cafe took that out of the equation.

I was sat in the room and it wasn't very late. I still fancied a beer so I nipped down to the shop downstairs and  snaffled a couple of cold ones. I enjoyed them immensely while watching Turkish TV.

I didn't sleep well at all. What's more I found in the morning that my phone hadn't charged properly and Terry was going to text me the address of the hotel in Mugla which he had arranged for me. Tension on it! Chris and I convened at nine at another of the tiny cafes around the tiny hotel and had some pastry with cay and it was a decent start to the day especially since I had already had a packet of biscuits in the room.

The first half hour was a doddle, flat or down with no wind. The rest wasn't. It was a tough uphill grind with an occasional short downhill bit. It started with a steep climb for 5km after Eskicine, then just gradual uphill until another big steep one just after halfway and then another gradual climb up again to Mugla  I knew what to expect because I had seen the profile when I made the first plan and had then frantically looked at other routes but there weren't any. So it was head down push one, push the other, blow the sweat off the nose, you know the drill etc. We stopped for lunch at a posh petrol station place after we had got past half way and Christoph's dream nearly came true. It looked like soup but it was actually a lovely chicken stew, which we had with rice and tons of bread and not too expensive either. We knuckled down and made it to Mugla itself. We found a place to have a coffee and had a last drink and chat and made our farewells. I checked my phone and the hotel details were there. There was only about 10% power left on my phone so it was a close one. Chris had to make progress to get to Antalya for a ferry to Cyprus and then on to Israel for a ferry to Morocco, overland in Africa to Ghana and then a boat to Brazil. We will keep in touch and I hope all goes well for the lad.

I was then left with the task of finding the hotel from the address that Terry had texted me. My phone was on its last legs, battery-wise but, miraculously the text was there. I then asked a waiter at the coffee place and found I was very close. I found the hotel about five minutes later. I got everything plugged in and charging and listened to England winning the test match and then had a monumental swill and ventured out for food and drink. I have had my usual with a couple of beers and actually later found a street with a few pubs in. I had a mini pub crawl of three places. One was a nice garden type place where there were two policemen talking loudly to the staff until they left with a bottle of Jack Daniels - a gift, the barman told me. The second was was a very dimly lit bar which had a lot of women in but strangely none of them had a drink. The third was an Irish bar with not the slightest bit of Irish-ness about it apart from the odd shamrock.

I made it back to the hotel with some crisps and a couple of cans and will have a proper sleep in tomorrow. I can't believe I'm so close after all this time but then I think about Christoph and his adventure, of which I've been a very small part, and the young Korean Jeonghwan Kim who's been 'out here' for a year or more and will be for a lot longer.

Today's track