Material World

Posted by Krista
Istanbul, Turkey

Photo: Dan and I crossing the border into Turkey in October 2008

As you know, we chose the ‘slow road’, which meant a meandering summer bike ride through Europe, a rest stop in Istanbul for autumn and winter 2008, and the ‘road to Lhasa’ continuing in spring 2009.

So for 5 months, we’ve been living in Istanbul, amongst a population of 20 million other souls, all breathing and striving together, shoulder to shoulder. It hasn’t been easy – with the traffic more crazy than Cairo, the mayhem more than I’ve known before (perhaps I’m just less tolerant these days), and the wheelings and dealings enough to exhaust even the most energetic.

We both found work teaching English, exercising our knowledge of our native tongue and transmitting this to ever eager students… and slowly, surely, with a sprinkle of snow for Christmas, the winter has passed. Spring is here. Our cycling is about to recommence.

But not without hours of preparation. The most tiring has been trundling off to the various embassies: Azeri, Turkmen, Uzbek, Kyrgyz, Chinese… It was easy enough to procure visas for Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan (just answer questions on a form about “your material status”), but the others have proved to be more of a headache.

We’ve reluctantly surrendered to the fact that we won’t be able to get our Chinese visa here in Istanbul, and will reapply in Tashkent (Uzbekistan),,, then again in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) if that’s unsuccessful. And as for Turkmenistan, well, we may not be able to go through there at all as their visa requirements are so strict. We should:
1. have a letter of invitation (at the cost of $40 – $60 USD each)
2. hire a guide for the duration of the trip (at the cost of $120 USD each per day)
3. specify each place you will stay each night
4. give specific entry and exit dates
5. not stray from your planned itinery
So we’re considering a detour through Kazakstan instead…

Bike maintenance has taken up alot of time too, as both our freewheels broke – this is unheard of with new bikes,,, and we’ve been liasing with bike shops back in the UK to sort this out. My least favourite task has been purchasing yet more equipment (water filter, a pair of 17 inch hub spanners, a Brooks saddle, some new panniers, new tyres,,,)

Tell you what, we can’t wait to hit the road again.

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