Bike-Ride To Australia 5th-December 2011

Bike-Ride To Australia 5th-December 2011 Istanbul. A productive start to the day; my flight to India was booked before going down to breakfast! I leave Wednesday evening and arrive in Mumbai in the early hours of Thursday.

Breakfast finished, and it was off to the shops. I needed a big bag for my panniers, a box for my bike, bubble wrap and gaffer tape. I managed to source everything in less than two hours! That’s one of the joys of Istanbul and the Grand Bazaar with its warren of shops. After sourcing everything I needed, I returned to the hotel and proceeded to pack my bike away.

As it was midday, the bar was empty and shut; I hasten to add! So I set myself up in there, thinking all I had to do was take the peddles off and turn the handlebars, and the bike would just slip straight into the box! Haha, not a chance! So I took the front wheel off; still, it wouldn’t fit! I went on to take the front bracket and mudguard off. Still, it wouldn’t go in the box! The back wheel, rear rack, and mudguard were next to come off! Finally, I managed to get it in the box, in a thousand and one bits! Who knows if it’ll ever get it back together again!

Touring bike boxed up ready to fly
How not to pack a bike

I’ve only ever flown with a bike once before, which was earlier this year to Spain. That time I had a giant plastic bag! And all I had to do was turn the handlebars and remove the pedals. It was so much easier! I was stressing over the flight so much, worried whether my bike would arrive in one piece! Or that it would even arrive at all! It’s one of the reasons for not wanting to fly from Ankara. I couldn’t take the stress of changing planes!

Funnily enough, it’s not stressing me out at all this time! It might be a different story when I get to India, and I can’t get it back together again!

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Bike-Ride To Australia 4th-December 2011

Bike-Ride To Australia 4th-December 2011 Ankara to Istanbul by train. Early start today, I was up at 2.30, ready for the 4 am “Istanbul Express” to Istanbul. Paranoid I’d miss the train; hence my 2.30 am start! I arrived at the railway station 45 minutes early! At the railway station, I went and sat in the waiting room. It was too cold outside. It was -9!

Building with lights on
Ankara railway station

There was already a few people in the waiting room, all fast asleep and snoring! But at least it was nice and warm in there. 4 am came and went, and no sign of a train! And nobody around to ask! I kept looking at my ticket to ensure what it said and check that I had the right time and date! Yep, I was at the right station, Sunday the 4th December, today! And the 04.11 “Istanbul Express” to Istanbul! There was nothing else I could do apart from sit and wait.

People started to drift in, but nobody official or anybody who spoke English! Eventually, at about 5.30, I found an official who spoke a little English. He told me the train was at 6 am. They’d changed the timetable! They must have changed it at short notice; I only bought my ticket at 4 pm yesterday! I needn’t have gotten up so early! The train eventually arrived at 6.30 and left Ankara at 6.50.

I’m On My Way

This Istanbul Express was no express; it took eleven hours! We stopped off at various stations on route, where people, often teenagers, would hop on to sell their wares—ranging from shoes to pots and snacks. Which, as it turned out, was very useful, as there was no buffet car!

I arrived in Istanbul just before 6 pm and felt more worn out than if I’d been cycling for eleven hours! I checked back into the same hotel, which felt a little like coming home! All the staff remembered me, and when I went to the bar Ahmet, the barman said, “ah, Mr Garry where have you been!

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Bike-Ride To Australia 3rd-December 2011

Bike-Ride To Australia 3rd-December 2011 Ankara. Up at the usual time today, I wanted to get to the embassy as early as possible. Seeing as the Saudi visa could be difficult, I’m applying for that one first. As soon as I’d finished breakfast, I set off for the embassy. I had the address and a rough idea of its whereabouts after the receptionist had marked it on a map for me.

I found my way, without too much trouble to the area marked on my map by the receptionist. But when I looked in my bar bag for the precise address, it was nowhere to be found! Maybe I’d put it in my pocket or wallet, no I still couldn’t find it! Great, I’d either lost it on my way here or left it back at the hotel! I cycled around and found every other embassy apart from the Saudi one! The streets were very quiet, so there wasn’t even anybody I could ask! After an hour, I gave up and cycled back to the hotel!

The Dolmus bus terminal in Ankara Turkey
The Dolmus bus terminal in Ankara Turkey

Back at the hotel, I found the address still in my room! Rather than cycle back, I decided to get a taxi. After all, I’d already cycled every single road and street in the embassy district and couldn’t find it! The taxi driver took me back to where I was earlier. I said that it wasn’t here. I’ve already been here! But apparently, this was the address I’d given him! The taxi driver asked some security guard, who directed us around the corner. We were at the back of the building! Anyway, after all that phaffing around, it was closed until Monday! I’d had enough by now and came back to the hotel to book a flight to India!

At The Hotel

The taxi dropped me back at the hotel, and I made my way to the lift to go up to my room. The lift, I’ve not mentioned that! I’m in the elevator for less than 40 seconds, and in that time, the lift music loops around 2 or 3 times! Its repetitive music playing on a continuous loop is torture! It’s the beginning of the Titanic theme sung by Celine Dion! I can even hear it when waiting for the lift!

I wasn’t in the best of moods when I reached my room! What a wasted morning it was trying to find that embassy, and as for that bloody lift! Anyway time to calm down and book a flight to India, which wasn’t that straightforward either! If I fly from Ankara, I have to change flights in Istanbul. You can’t fly direct from Ankara to Mumbai! I also have a six-hour wait between flights in Istanbul! It’s also significantly more expensive to fly from Ankara! So I’ve changed plans again! I’m now catching a train back to Istanbul. The train leaves tomorrow at 4 am and arrives in Istanbul at 1 pm. It’s a rather long journey, but I quite like travelling by train.

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