The Longest Day!

(James) The last month has been hard work with Em hostel bound and getting increasingly frustrated and me constantly having to run to a dozen different police stations and other government offices to ensure our paperwork was in order. On the plus side I have become something of a dab hand at dealing with officialdom, almost daily I would be standing in a police station or an embassy trying to get things done but hitting a wall as Emily was |not there in person. This was, I would be told time and time again, impossible without her despite my protests that she was in hospital (for dramatic effect!) but always, a bit of persistence, keeping positive and smiling would get them chatting and almost every time they’d ask where I was from. The answer ‘London’ would be greeted with grins of recognition followed by them naming their favourite football teams and English players! I’d then be able to talk to them about Turkish football and Istanbul’s 3 big teams where upon I’d be asked what my favourite Turkish team was. I’d learnt early on that 2 of them (Galatasary and Fenerbache) hate each other whereas the third team (Besiktas) seemed to be inoffensive to everyone, so I’d say ‘Besiktas’ and wait for them to name their teams before making a joke about one of them having to fight the other. This joshing would, everytime without fail, see a thawing of their previously immovable rules and they would give me a nod to say they were going to ‘sort it’ for me and then invite me in for chai! Note: this also works at border crossings!

It’s fair to say that both of us had become sick of Istanbul, that’s not to say it isn’t a great city or that we hadn’t met lovely people, just simply that our initial 10 day stay (which we thought was a long time) had stretched to a month. What this meant in practical terms for us was that our ‘schedule’ had gone to pot – we generally tend to ride when and where we want but our one deadline has always been our crossing of China. The reason for this is that the Chinese government really don’t like the idea of tourists being in their country with their own transport (who knows where we might go?!) and so we have to have an official guide (observer) with us the entire time as well as having the endless bureaucracy to deal with that requires us to have Chinese licenses, registration plates and the approval of a dozen departments and directorates. Needless to say, all this costs quickly add up (we also have to cover accommodation and transport for the ‘guide’) so many months before our departure we arranged with several other like-minded souls from around the world to meet and cross together to share the financial burden.

The date of our crossing is the 20th August. As the weeks rolled by in Istanbul, we both had started to nervously count the dwindling number of days so on Monday we made the decision that given that Em was now able to walk (though not very far!) with just the one crutch we’d have to hit the road. Wednesday was picked as departure day, allowing us to sort out our admin and get ourselves together. As you may have already read Tuesday was a bit hectic as we finally found someone who could make the metal brackets I wanted so the evening was spent fitting them (they fit perfectly!), saying our goodbyes and repacking as we intended to leave before the morning rush hour. Em was understandably nervous (not just because it was her first time back on the bike but because heavy traffic would mean lots of stopping and putting down of feet). As per our last night in England, we were up until gone 2am but true to our plan we were up at 6am and an hour later, having confirmed that Em could actually get her boot on, we were riding across the Bosphorus. Our plan was to try to get to Ankara and then spend the night somewhere between there and Cappadocia – our ultimate destination and sadly, the only place on our original list of places to visit that time would allow us to see. We knew that the day was going to be long and boring as it was going to be all motorway as we wanted to at least try and make up some time. Our progress was way better than expected and we passed Ankara at 2pm, and headed south towards Askaray. The roads at this point deteriorated considerably (as did the driving which hadn’t exactly been stellar before!) and we were kept on our toes, hard when we had already passed the 500km mark for the day (already our longest day by a distance). As we headed further south towards the Syrian border we noticed that the dress, people and landscape became more ‘arabic’ which really gave us a taste of the distance we had covered that day. We were lucky not to get stopped in our tracks at one point as we passed right by a huge fire raging in a wheat field next to the road, with locals trying to stop it reaching the petrol station by the road (just 40 metres away). Another 5 minutes and the road would have probably have been closed. We reached Askaray at about 6:30 and turned east towards Cappadocia and although we were so close we were both aware that we were exhausted and that we were now chasing the setting sun. In the end we arrived at our destination, the small town of Urgup at approximately 9pm, after dark which violated our self imposed rule about riding at night on the trip, both utterly shattered and Em a little traumatised! We’d ridden a frankly ridiculous 790km, and although we made up 2-3 days at our normal pace we won’t be doing it again! We slept well.

12 Responses to “The Longest Day!”

  1. dad says:

    You guys are amazing. I hope you are sleeping the deep sleep of the just and brave.
    Get an autopilot fitted and sleep and ride? No it wouldn’t work would it!
    love from Dad X

  2. Ben says:

    About time! Good to see you back on the road.
    Hope all else is going well. B

  3. joanna says:

    Keep going guys – I’m sure you’ll make it! xx

  4. Mama/Kate says:

    You two are the stuff that LEGENDS are made of! OK, The Fountain was always a legend but my little Em is coming up on the inside lane.I am, quite simply, astonished. Stay safe. Mama loves you.x

  5. Littlewood mi says:

    Hey guys…glad to hear you are back on the road and Em’s leg is almost back to normal. Great to hear of your new exploits once again and look forward to more in the coming days, weeks, months (?)

    We are looking forward to our own exciting journey back to Malaysia, Singapore and H.K with Jacks…the days just can’t go quick enough! Wrapping up the end of the year has never been so painful…we are both completely shattered. Still, only this last ‘babysitting’ week to go and then we’re off to enjoy our hols.

    Take care. Lots of love Jo and Ben xxx

  6. Janine says:

    wow, you guys made it ridiculously far that day first day out. congratulations, and i hope you stopped to enjoy the wine cellars of ürgüp while you were there.

  7. Jackie (aka Mum) says:

    Everyone is quite right you guys are amazing – what a trip and thankfully Em’s leg held up ok. You are a hero James.

    Many thanks for my lovely birthday present which arrived via Kate – obviously I opened it as we will be in Malaysia on the big day !

    Will drop you an e-mail before we leave. Enjoy and keep safe. Lots of love, Jackie xx

  8. Martha and Marcus says:

    Er, not sure that is humanly possible! If it wasn’t for Em to verify the story I would assume James was doing his usual exagerating!! Well done guys, glad you are on your way again. We are looking forward to some more blogs xxx

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Oh my God! I can’t believe how far u guys rode, that’s insane! I bet ur a right dabhand now Emily-especially being able to do that when not 100%. Are u in Georgia now then? cos I don’t recognise any of the places u’ve mentioned (the mark of a moron, i know) so I’m just gonna have to go look at a map! Love u x x

  10. Elizabeth says:

    Just had a look, and take it ur still in Turkey-didn’t realise it was as big a country as it is!x

  11. Jackson says:

    that’s so money, it’s like the jedi mind shit man

  12. Angi says:

    Did you get to see any fairy chimneys in Cappadoccia? Such a unique landscape, I hope you didn’t miss it. Glad Em’s feeling better but still – I can’t imagine riding with a sprained ankle, probably very nerve wracking.

    Keep on truckin :)

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