We are sitting on a ferry crossing the Sea of Marama that will take us into Istanbul, after being advised not to try and cycle in with the crazy big city traffic. The five hour boat ride gives some time to reflect on the past 5 weeks since we left Lausanne, especially now that we have hit Turkey, which for some reason all of a sudden feels very far away from Switzerland, its not somewhere you would normally drive to let alone arrive by bike.
One of the most striking things for me about the journey so far is that time seems to pass so fast on the trip. I think its because nothing is constant, except for the bike you are sitting on, the km clock ticking over, and the two friends I am with. At home almost everything was constant, the bed I slept in, the alarm clock, the work chair, the supermarket, the routine of coffees and meals. Now every bed is different, the only one that stays the same is the air mattress that lies in the tent, that is pitched on the side of the road or a random camping ground found at the end of the day. Every meal is had at a different place, each hour the view and scenery changes, and then every week or so the culture changes, the language changes, the currency, the vibe. And its for all these reasons that each day, each week seems to go past in a flash, because the constants of home that you normally use to anchor your day and your life are gone. Instead we look to other anchors such as keeping in touch with friends and family, who keep us grounded in the real world. It’s so hard to describe on the phone what its like and hopefully the photos and stories we share give a glimpse. We find routine in the way we pack our panniers each morning, the 30km in between stops, the « jobs » we have settled into, be it finding a rest stop, finding a place to sleep, or navigating our way from place to place. We have learnt to appreciate the small things in life. A shower at the end of the day, a coffee, a hot meal, and most of all a comfortable bed. These simple things that we took for granted before we started are now reasons to smile and whoop! We say cheers at the end of every day, to celebrate the day and the km completed on the road.
We have all agreed that the most interesting parts of the trip have been those spent with locals - family of friends who have so warmly welcomed us into their homes, cooked incredible local fare for us and even given up their beds for us. Their generosity and hospitality has blown us away and we have all vowed that we will return the favor to any travellers who need hospitality in the future. Equally, we have been incredibly fortunate to have had the assistance of the community of National Olympic Committees and Olympians along the way supporting us with accommodation and meals. They have also provided invaluable advice about roads to take (or not take) places to eat and even ridden some of the day with us. Although many people speak good English, many great conversations have been had not by speaking but in sign language. We learn things about the way other people live every day that make you appreciate what you have. People who have lived with bombs being dropped on their street, people for whom international travel is a distant dream. To say we are grateful for every little bit of assistance we have received is an understatement...from providing a roof over our heads to simply being passed a banana out the car window by a random stranger, everyday we are thankful to so many for giving us a hand, making our journey so much more enjoyable.
We have also been incredibly lucky to have some lovely familiar faces come to visit us along the way. Starting with the big crew who rode with us on day two up the Simplon Pass, Bonnie in Sofia, Helen and Stefan in Plovdiv (who even braved the trucks to ride with us for a few km) and Dave and Rebecca who will come to Istanbul. All little snippets of home that have helped us to be able to better share what the journey is about with our friends, but also have provided a much welcome boost to the morale with familiar laughs, chats and bear hugs.
We are all a little quiet sitting on the ferry right now. Mixed emotions of making it as far as Istanbul, feeling smashed after some long days riding in the sun, but mainly it marks a huge stage of the journey for us as sadly today was our last day riding with our wind breaker, ET or Emma. She will fly back to NZ from Istanbul to start her campaign for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Thursday. SVB and I will miss her enourmously, not just because she sat out the front making our lives easier as we battled head winds pretty much from Croatia to Turkey, but because she’s just a very special human being and I feel privileged to have been able to get to know better and share part of this journey with. We can’t thank you enough for joining us for part of the journey ET, you’re an inspiration to all of us and we wish you every success on the road to Tokyo, and hope you can ride a bit of the final leg in New Zealand next year!