Just Exploring

Little by little we make small things big. Step by step we move forward. Following the right path, the Eightfold path, makes me calm, steady and happy. Did you find yours? Everybody has one, just some must look deeper or look for it longer. Just explore and it will unfold naturally.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cycling to Asia, week 6

After Erzincan a real east Turkey experience have started. The country is similar, roads are as bad as before... no just kidding... but the people have changed. How? They got even more tough. This here is a bit different from the Furkans Turkey in Tekirdag. The cloths are simple, dirty, worn out and a tear or a patch is not uncommon. The faces are rough, wrinkly, adjusted to the ceaseless winds and cold nights. We are averaging 1500m in altitude. Ramadan is taken seriously here. No more çorba or çay during the day. We have warm food only in evenings, sometimes in mornings. But our stove started to give us some trouble. NO! Please not now. Now it is highly appreciated, otherwise we'll have no warm food at all. Locals start to eat after 7pm... We are in the middle of a field or next to a river, camping, at this time.

At the beginning of this week we crawled up to our -so far- highest point on bikes: a pass in 2290m. But to be honest it was easier than the 900m one in Serbia. We celebrated it appropriately with halva and hazelnuts and here we go! Down hills oh how I love them! Straight 40km to Erzurum. Big city, but probably the most strict when it comes to Ramadan. We couldn't get anything warm so we just took a snack on the sidewalk. You should see the looks! Funny we met Sheila a girl we know from Istanbul. What a coincidence... but there are no coincidences, right!

A good way how to judge how far east we are -except looking at our bike comps - is to get into a town and check the behavior of the locals. When we stop just to refill our water bottles we stir the them a bit. There are always few busybodies around us immediately... Can you imagine what it means to got to the center and buy e.g. milk and bread. In Agri it had started with few stones thrown at us by street kids at the outskirt of the town, then all the men near the bakery surrounded Dusan, while I went inside to get a loaf. Where are you from?, where are you going?, what's your name? Do you like Turkey? All this in Turkish of course. But we've learned a bit so we can answer almost fluently... Then we moved to a grocery store and the whole circus has started again. Just people have changed, questions have remained. We know them by heart. Sometimes we even give answers when there are no questions. People are interested, amused, shocked and always very welcoming. Just the kids! Hello money, hello money is the only English they utter at us. We have seen also some rude gestures and some stones flying by. What should we do? We have tear gas but this is for dogs. Adults are very helpful with this, sometimes. If they see a kid harassing us, they usually send them away...

Last few days were very relaxing. We haven't done more than 85km a day I think. I lost track of the mileage, it's not important anymore.But the main reason for this is my buttocks. It got a bit irritated of the hours just sitting on the saddle. Plus I got a slight diarrhea so the trip started to be literally a pain in the ass... NO NO. It's not bad at all. It's better and better, because me and Dusan got really well together. Our way of traveling and dealing with daily activities is almost identical. Just the body is calling for a break. So it shall have it.

We took a day and half off in Dogubeyazit. Nice camping under majestic palace Ishak pasa saray. Our first hot shower since Istanbul. So we can continue to Iran... yeah!!!

pics will come from Iran... at least I hope since the I've heard that the internet is restricted in there now... cheers.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cycling to Asia, Lion in Zion

This is how we entertain our self a bit on a long and straight roads in Turkey. We have last 5 days a head of us and then Iran. We are looking forward to a change. Turks are bit too rough. All the shouts, toots and attention... one can get fed up with that. No, no we didnt, all Im saying ıs that a change wıll be welcomed. On the other side Ramadan wıll be much more strict ın Inaran, so we better get used to eat just bread lunches...

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cycling to Asia, week 5

The break at the lake turned out to be a great idea. To get there was a bit demanding, during the ascent I thought it should better be the heaven up there, otherwise it's not worth this strenous effort. We reached the lake at 9pm, totaly wet from sweat. But even in dark it looked misterious. We slept for a long 9 hours. We didn't even know how tired we were. For the whole day we did absolutely nothing, except filling our stomachs and taking naps. Very useful day!

What a pleasure it is to ride after a day off. The body is refreshed and the mind is eager to observe new things. But there is a big change in the surroundings. Not that much in the landscape it self -it still keeps on changing from bit more green to dry and brown, only to get greener again. It doesn't rain here much, but there are parts with forest or groves. Predominately its barren, though. The change I'm talking about has happened in people. The reason is Ramadan. First we were bit anxious about how we will get our daily dosage of nutritions- so important to us! But soon we've found out that as tourist plus travelers this is not a problem. Even muslims on the road {pilgrims, travelers} are allowed to eat. But majority of the people do fast during a day. They don't drink tea, some not even water. But they still work and live normal lifes, at least they try to do so. In reality the roads got deserted -only truck drivers remained and the towns are as vieled with slow motion filter. People appears to be just a bit more alive that zombies. They still welcome us everywhere, but not as cheerfully as before and all the invitations for tea have ceased. At least it looks like that in the first days.

After few days we got a better picture about the holy celebration. People take it quite seriously, but as for us it's not a problem. We even got invited for lunch by truck drivers, and few invitations for tea did appear. But everybody is saying that in Iran it's much more strict -they do not even listen to music... Ramadan takes one month so a good half of it we will spend in Iran. Will see...

As for the traffic it is slower, but obviously we don't mind that! Nice thing is that we are surrounded with beautiful mountains from north and south, but the riding is quite easy. The roads are neither too steep nor too straight. Just enough to keep us interested, but not to pass out every evening.It's also not so hot, rather chilli.

On the last day of this week we got another surprise. We woke up just to find out that everything is frezen. The bags and the tent are all covered in ice coating. It's just 23rd august, so we didn't really expected this. True thing is that we slept quite high. It might have been arround 1500m. What followed was a beautiful 25km up hill ride to a mountain pass in 2160m. Sounds horrifing? It wasn't that bad. The almost ceaseless 40km downhill was even better. Now we ended up in Erzincan. Just to give you a picture about the altitudes we are dealing with here, the town lies in 1180m.

Last thing. We've found out that getting a hitch from fully loaded tractor or truck, by just holding tide to its trailor is a good way how to safe energy, specially during the ascents. It doesn't happend too often because it needs a right timing, but ocasionally the luck strikes us. We have grabed a few already. I know, I know this is cheating, but common, we are biking from Slovakia to India, those several 5km kicks are nothing in the whole scale.

good luck to you all, and keep on reading.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cycling to Asia, part three

The traffic before Istanbul was horrendous, it started to build up 50 km before the city center, fancy that!? So on the way out we tried to skip it by taking a ferry to Yalova. It was a good choice, but for the next 3 days we were driving on a deadly straight and boringly flat road with a plentiful of trucks passing us. We could do some mileage, but it was quite ordinary riding. On the third day we finally hit our first mountains. The ascent was a killer, but beautiful in one. From now on we ride in nice surroundings, but still on the main road from Istanbul to Ankara, so the traffic is busy. At least the road is in a good shape and there is a roadside. The Bole pass was 950m, but comparing to the Serbian equivalent this was a piece of cake. Anatolia is welcoming us.

What fallowed were few days with very nice views and some excellent riding. But also our first bad experience with kids. We stopped for lunch in a nice picnic area for locals. It was full of natives chillin on the carpets. As usual we had company straight a way. A bunch of adolescent boys surrounded us. While we were fixing our lunch they kept on staring and occasionally chatting with us. They had no problems to just sit next to us and do nothing. We were there for a while and when we started to be fed up with all the attention and decided to leave I've noticed that my leatherman is missing. What followed was a spectacular performance. They showed empty pockets and even started to body check each other. Afterwards they accused one lad that had left few minutes ago. Afterwards they just left with big big apologies. The alleged thief stayed and turned up to be a nice guy, so who was it? Well we should be more cautious but if its only things like a knife that we will get riped of on this journey then it's still alright.

For the next days we had some pleasant ride, mostly down hill. We are descending towards the bottom of Anatolia! The heat started to be noticeable. The land got drier, water supplies fewer, but still enough. We stopped filtering the water, cause here it looks safe, and it's bit pain in the buttocks to filter 4 liters per person. There are only few places suitable for a break so we usually ride from town to a village or nearest city. These became a oasis for us. Except of getting our stomachs full with çorba {soup} in a local restaurants we usually get at least one invitation to a çay {tea}. These warm welcomes are welcomed by us, since the time we spent on the road is associated with solitude -it's hard to have any sort of a chat during the ride, since the roadside is usually in a bad shape, so we ride mostly on the road, but this means some close shaves from the trucks and buses. On the other side there is usually very little that we can talk about with locals, since our Turkish is limited to basic words. So after we inform them about our nationality, where are we coming from and where are we heading we leave. The joy and surprisement on the faces is something worth telling the same story dozen times a day.

At the end of this week we started to wear long trousers again. The villages got more rural and we felt this will be more suitable. Not even 10 km in morning and we got our first invitation for çay. What so significant about it? Well this time it was to a old family living in a small house next to a road. The tea was cooked on a old Turkish style cooker, working on wood. What a nice sign, for our decision.

Soon after we got out from mountains and hit some flat land again. This meant an encounter wind good old friend: wind. It allowed us to travel only 10km/h witch is just bit more then during an uphill ride, but this time with no reward in exciting downhill ride, plus the noise.

It's almost a weak since we left Istanbul. Good thing on it is that we are finally of the beaten track Istanbul - Ankara, so anywhere we go we are the main attraction. This is very interesting. But also the quality of the road changed and I started to be bored. It's for the first time on this journey that I felt something like boredom, but you have to understand that the land hasn't changed for the last few days, wind is making it extraordinary difficult to progress, and of course my body needs a rest. Surprisingly even after month I have a sore muscles in the evening. It's much better than it was during the first week or two, but still, I thought that the body will adjust completely. Well but what I want, right? Five to six hours of excessive exercise is not very normal.

Today we took a break in Amasya and we are heading to a small lake where we will take a whole day off. Both of us need it. We got enough of dusty roads, tooting of the trucks at us and monotonic riding. You may ask what will we do in the Pakistani desert, but this hasn't come yet, so it doesn't boder us.


Friday, August 14, 2009

Cycling to Asia, Dusan

In Dusan words... this time in slovak language:

Mame za sebou europsku etapu nasej vypravy a aj do Istanbulu je to uz z mestecka Çerkeş daleko. Slapeme po hlavnej ceste smerom na Osmancik, Erzurum a uvidime ako dalej.. Premavka nie je taka hrozna ako sme ocakavali, no ked sa nam zunuje horko, prah a dostaneme chut na debatu, tak si zajdeme do nejakeho z miest prı ceste a vsetko sa nahle zmeni. Mestecka posobia ako oazy a po hodinach "osameleho" slapania nam ani nevadi, ze nas vzdy obkolesi hlucik deti, ktore sa s velkou radostou pozeraju na to, ako napriklad jeme melon... Ich zvedavost je vsak skor mila a nakoniec je z toho vzdy obojstranne potesenie. Turci su velmi spolocenski. Nemaju zabrany vypytovat sa na cokolvek. Skoda vsak, ze len po turecky. My si zas melieme po slovensky, no nakoniec aj tak dospejeme k porozumeniu. Rec je predsa iba jeden z mnohych dorozumievacich prostriedkov.
Anatolıa je typıcky kontınentalna. Nocı velmı chladne, dnı horuce, no telicka si celkom zvykaju. Potom co nas opustil Brano sme trochu spomalili, prirodzene:> Kupat sa uz niet kde, jedine ak vo vlastnom pote. Rieky i obcasne jazera su velmi spinave. Slovicko kanalizacia by sme v slovensko-tureckom slovniku asi nenasli. Ked sme to predsa len raz skusili, domorodci si nas potom, co sme vysli z vody, obzerali s respektom a tak trochu s odstupom..:>

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Cycling to Asia, part two

Its quıte hard to keep track of the days, plus almost ımpossıble to have a regular wrıtıng sesıons so thıs blog wıll be reduced a bıt. I wıll wrıte only ın weeks. Sorry for that.

So Belehrad, right? After thıs nıce day off the real trıp started. Brano was rıght Hungary and Voıvodına (north regıon of Serbıa) where borıng. We decıded to head to Bulgarıan mountaıns, but thıs meant that we wıll cross also some Serbıan mountain passes. Rıght after Smederovo we are catchıng a good blow from nıce back wınd. Muscels are relaxed, wınd ıs good, road ıs straıght, so fınally we have an avarıdge day speed 20 km/h. Wanna see whats gonna be lıke ın moutaıns.

On 9th day we met a Polısh cyclıng fella Mıchal. He ıs quıte crazy, drıvıng only speed street bıke wıth thın tıres, but quıte loaded. Hıs back wheel has broaken rım, but he dıd 1000 km wıth that so ıt looks lıke everythıng ıs alrıght. Nıce quy, lıttlebıt bıke crazy but thats fıne wıth me.

Moutaıns started. Im knacked rıght away. Thıs ıs a dıfferent cup of tea. I thought that my body got used to drıvıng after a week, but now I have to get used to clımbıng up the hıll. The speed drops down to 6-7 km/h and sweat drops down from my forehead. After a day or to I started to enjoy the whole proces. Why? Because almost after each clımb, there ıs a downhıll rıght. And these are awsome. We reached a pretty crazy maxımum speed: 76 km/h downhill wıth fully loaded bıkes ıs scary... Overall the avarıdge speed declıned a bıt but ıt doesnt matter. The vıews are magnıcıfent, nature beutiful and the rıde ıs just awesome.

The choıse to go trough mountaıns was just great. There ıs no wınd and the relaxed nature around us ıs much better than plaın fıelds or bussy towns. We stıll manadge to make 100 km a day, ıt just takes us a bıt longer. Now we have to pad for 6 hours, but thats allrıght.

The last nıght ın Serbıa was nıce. After a pleasant 25 km downhıll rıde, we found a nıce small church. It looked as for a whıle nobody vısıted thıs place, so we should be safe and alone. For an unknown reason Brano decıded to rıng the bell... DONG! Hmmm are we stıll gonna spend the nıght peacefully here? Well the locals seems to be acustomed to goasts or crazy strandgers, because nobody showed up. It was fırst nıght wıthout a tent, so we could stretch our bones a bıt.

Next day a downhıll rıght to Bulgarıan borders. The Serbıan offıcers trıed to be tough and mentıoned that we should have regıster upon arrıval, but sınce nobody told us that before, we just ıgnored them and everythıng was OK. Bulgarıans were just fıne. Well they are ın EU, so they should be. We got down from mountaıns, fırst I was lookıng forward to a bıt of an easy rıdıng, but the tremendous heat that stroke us changed my mınd. Mountaıns are really great!

The other shock was the country by ıt self. Everythıng got much drıer, people much more quıet and towns half breakıng appart. Lot of houses are deserted and vılıdges look really spooky. Is thıs really EU? It looks lıke 120 years a go.

Bulgarıans are totaly dıfferent. Reserved and poor. No facıal expressıon lıke Serbs. No comments to our crazy rıde. Just empty gaze or meanıngless starıng. Occasıonaly they do ask few questıons, but wıth almost no emotıons.
We got very well together. Almost all thıngs about the mornıng and evenıng procedure are vell organızed. Our dayly routınıes got well manadged and the most ımportant of all, we learned eached other needs and stıles. We have sımmılar stamına, so cyclıng ıs not a problem and our need for food ıs olso quıte equal. We eat lıke crazy. Thıs ıs deffınıtally not low budget way of travelıng. There ıs usually somebody who doesnt want to have a water melon rıght now, but ıf two agree than the thırd one fıts ın as well.

We consumed almost all food from home, so the weıght of my bıke got normalızed. Now the whole thıng mıght be arround 40-45 kg. Its stıll a small bus, but much more handy than before. Now the whole maneuverıng and drıvıng seems natural to me. It wasnt lıke that at the begınıng. But now after 1300 km everythıng ıs a sure thıng. The whole trıp appears natural to me. Thıs ıs probably the most convınıent way of travellıng, that appeals to me a lot now. We went trough a mountaın pass between Pırın and Rıla. The bıggest mountaıns ın Balkan. It could have been 1200 m above see level. The ascent was even, but ıt was a steady 20 km. I sweat at least a gallon. It was lıke a shover, because ıts really hot here. Fırst tıme that I couldnt do ıt ın one stretch - I had to take a breadıng break. We spent the nıght on the other sıde, just behınd Bansko -somethıng lıke our Poprad. Turıstıc and borıng.

The bıggest hard core came the other day. In our oblıgatory 100 km a day we went up for at least 60km. So more sweatıng rıde than a pleasure one. The goal was to reach the lake at Dospat. We had to clımb steep hıll, wıth almost no vıews. The last 4km were a max kıller, but the satısfactıon that followed was nıce. Lake lıke a norwegıan fjord. Hıgh hılls, steep slopes and a bıg lake. One of the best place for campıng on our trıp so far.

We are already ın east. The proof ıs our western way of havıng breakfast: local bakarıes and mılk or yogurt are too tasty to resıst the temptatıon. Bulgarıa ıs the cheapest country so far. The prıces for veggıes and fruıts are sometımes rıddıculous. For example a bıg watermelon for 1 euro or 2kg of tomato for 50 cents...

Next day agaın more up hıll than down hıll. Thıs ıs gettıng quıte tırıng. Most of the tıme were are arround 1000 m above the see so the clımate ıs totaly cyclo frıendly. We passed trough a hıstorıc vıllıdge called Shıroka Luka. It was nıce, but full of tourısts together wıth hıppıes. Funny combınatıon.

It looks lıke that the muscels wıll not be the problem, but the sınews mıght be. I start to feel my sınews under the rıght knee and Dusan ıs havıng a problems wıth hıs Achılles tendom.

We found a magnıcıfent spot for the nıght underneath a rocky face on a nıce meadow above Smolıan. These two days were extra demandıng. The ascents deffınıtely prevaıled the descents.Satısfactıon came on the thırd day. We slıd down to the town, took mılk breakfast and kept on rıdıng down the hıll for another 50km almost unınterrupted by hılls. Basıcally the whole day was very easy. We pedalled only few tımes to reach Kardzalı (95km). The two small hılls were just good for us to get hungry for lunch and dıgest after lunch...

The clımate changed rapıdly agaın. The heat and dryness changed the landscape to a hostıle peace of land. At least for cyclısts wıth hıgh demad of water. Tıll now we dıdnt have any problem wıth drınkıng water but now we are quıte close to Turkey and the streams of water are gettıng fewer and fewer.

On the 19th day we reached Kapıtan Andrevo -the border crossıng to Turkey. I remember thıs crossıng as very alıve from my last vısıte 9 years ago, but ıts nothıng lıke that anymore. No more sleepıng famılıes and hopeless refudges. What happend to them? The other change ıs that the entry tıcket to the country doubled (20 bucks), but thıs ıs understandable sınce the dollar went down.

The next four days brought us to Istanbul. It was quıte dıffıcult because Turkey welcomed us wıth strong wınds and borrıng hılly country. But on the shore of Marmara see we met Forkan. Nıce turkısh quy, who offered us to stay ın hıs house. Fırst we wanted to be the only for 1 nıght, but our tıred bodıes asked for some rest. Well two weeks ın sadle ıs not so easy. Entrance to Istanbul was crazy. The traffıc started almost 50 km before the outscrıts of the old town. Basıcally the whole coast ıs a contınuous strıpe of houses.

Hostels ınsıde the cıty are fully booked so we ended up ın a receptıon hall of one nıce cozy hostel. They chardged us only 5 euro per person so Its even better then a normal bed. At least for me.

Tomorrow asıa. But that comes ın other part. New trıp ıs ın front of us. We'll be only two, plus we will go off the main roads like Istanbul Ankara, so things will get interesting... yeah!