Dan and Claire on Sabbatical!!

Welcome to our blog, we hope you enjoy following our adventures!
We split our sabbatical in 2 parts:
Part 1 was from March to June 2010 touring around in our campervan in France and Spain.
Part 2 started on the 7th of July when we left Scotland to cycle through Europe and the Middle East to Africa in the remaining 6 months (back for Xmas).
Have a look at the route below and we'll try to post pics as much as we can!


Cycle Route to Africa

28 Sep 2010


So the 'couple of kebab eating fannies' are on the road again and what an amazing week or so it's been. The country and especially the people are so so cool :o)
So many good things have been happening to us that we can't sum them all up here on the blog. But here's our top few experiences since leaving Istanbul (in chronological order):
- Took the ferry from the centre of Istanbul across the Bosphorus to Yalova...slight cheat! But we didn't fancy cycling on 4 lane highways again, as we did on the way in. Dan had a bit of a gear issue so we stopped at a local motorbike repair shop. Such friendly peeps, fixed the bike for free and gave us tea (Cay). Not a bad start to the day.
- At the end of that day we were cycling along a big lake searching for a place to camp. We spotted a little lane leading down to the water where some farmers were working in the fields. We asked if it was ok to camp there and they gestured 'yes'. We made them tea and gave some cookies...they said we could pick our own peppers from the field. It really is the little things that make you happy :o)
-Cycled through the garden of turkey as we called it, cos there was fruit everywhere! Dan asked to take a picture of a whole family in one apple tree. They shouted 'Aufwiedersehn!!! Aufwiedersehn!!!!' a 100 times and then one came running over and tried to give us a bucket of apples. We took two and tried to explain that we didn't have room on the bikes for the bucket....he seemed to think we were weird.
-Fed a little puppy a tin of tuna...she followed us up the hill for ages.
-Cycled up some huge hill in the wind until sundown looking for a place to camp. We pushed the bikes over a ploughed field and ended up finding the most beautiful little spot under a tree with a view over the whole valley that we'd climbed up from. The early morning view was totally breathtaking.
-Had free Cay in a petrol station and grapes. Plus really nice chats...they thought we were a right pair of mentals for cycling from Scotland. (This seems to be common at the moment...free Cay and the mental bit)
-Had a big day of cycling onto the central Turkish plateau bit (looks a bit like Tibet...without the big hills, the monasteries, the yaks and prayer flags etc). Anyway, the whole day was cycle cycle cycle with not many free Cay stops along the way :o(. At 6pm we found a truck restaurant and had a lovely truckers meal. We asked the owers, the Dad and two sons, if we could camp near by and they said we could sleep in the restaurant...so we did. Very odd, but nice, they would keep coming over to check on us as we slept in the corner...putting more covers on us etc And the 15 year old boy said that Dan was very very handsome...I didn't quite know what to say! I thought 'Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaagggghhhhh!!!!!' Really really nice people though :o)
- Dan gets chased by a herd of hungry turkeys...meh meh meh meh!!!!
- Watched a shepherd and his animals cross the road. Got barked at by the biggest dogs in the world.
- There were no shops on the way, but Claire was asking directions from an old man who stopped to talk to us. She asked about a shop for bread and he walked to his car and came back with free bread. We got free tomatoes and grapes that day too.
- Camped by a little village and were passed by a tortoise...weird :o)
- Spent an hour getting through a little village because everyone wanted to talk to us and offer us tea, coke, cookies, water, poopin role etc. Really nice.
- Another village, more free Cay, ice cream and coke. And chats in German and Danish...neither of us speak Danish???
- Passed a massive building site in the middle of totally no where, they were building a high speed rail line. Anyway, got invited into the site camp for Cay and the offered us Turkish builder lunch, stuffed peppers, soup and bread. We were begining to get overwhelmed with the amazing hospitality...LEKKER :o)
-That night we were standing on the outskirts of a tiny village thinking about where to camp. A pick up pulled up and we had a sign language chat about camping, they gestured for us to stay with them. So we did! We almost got adopted by the family and we are now called Fatima and Mustafa. Just the best food and the nicest people imaginable!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So to sum up we feel like the king and queen cycling through the countryside waving and shouting 'Marhaba' to everyone (hello). So wowzzzzzzzzers its GREAT!!!

Lots of love Dan and Claire
ps Dan almost got savaged by a dog after he cycle by it and said 'hello'. A good kick to the heed sorted it oot.
pps. We're moving to Norway in January!!!

20 Sep 2010

A city of 1001 nights

We wake up to the call of prayer early in the morning, sleep on a bit and have breakfast on the roof with views of the Marmaris Sea (Dan doesn't wake up at all...ear plugs!!). Our week in Istanbul has been magical.
You can wonder around the streets for ages and discover new neighbourhoods around every corner. Because there is so much water around (the sea, the Bosphorus and the Golden Horn inlet) you don't feel very crowded amongst the 17 million people (more than the inhabitants of the Netherlands!!).
We treated ourselves to a very luxurious hotel the first nights, right next to the Blue Mosque in a cosy street with trees and little pussycats. It was great!
We moved to a more normal hotel after that, still with rooftop terrace coz almost every hotel has that here :-)
The Hagia Sophia is beautiful, a huge dom filled with light and wonderful mosaics. It's a museum now, so somehow lost its spiritual feeling a bit. But the building is very impressive and the combination of christian mosaics and islamic signs makes it very special.
Our bikes had a service in Bike&Outdoor (http://www.bikeandoutdoor.com/), a very friendly bikeshop and great service!!!! and we shopped around for a 'Fatima' outfit for Claire (better to cover up a bit from now on because the cycling shorts attracted too much tooting)and some white linnen trousers to cycle in for Dan.
We enjoyed having cay (strong tea in these little turkish glasses) on all the corner shops with little wooden stools and watching the world go by. There is so much life on the streets!
We met up with Josh for a day (the orange cyclist), wondered through Taksim while Dan and Josh had lively photography discussions :-)
Also met James one of the other cyclists we met on the road...we had too may beers and Dan lost his Oakley sunglasses and then fell off his bike onto a wet, muddy street. Very funny with hindsight, well the falling bit is. OH my Oakley's how i loved them :o( :o(!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
All in all a great break and we are ready to go on the road again. We're taking the ferry to Yalova this afternoon and then start cycling through massive Turkey.
We didn't get our Syria visa...to cut a long story short: Dan and Claire walk into Syrian consulate and say 'we would like to apply for a visa please', Syrian woman says 'impossible', Claire and Dan leave and get a Kebab....we eat a lot of kebabs...well thats all there is to eat!

Here are the pictures: http://www.flickr.com/photos/40131711@N05/

Hoping we can get into Syria...

14 Sep 2010

Our first video

Here's our first video, it covers one 24 period from our 4th sucessive day in the Bulgarian hills, passing the 4000km mark and entering into Turkey...we were in need of a rest :o)

We can't vue it, as all video seems to be banned in Turkey. Would be good to know if others can see it? Ta

Hope you liked it!!

4 Sep 2010

Hospitality, Hills and Headwind

From Belgrade to Bulgaria it has been a series of random adventures! On the first day we left Belgrade we were looking for a place to camp on the river when 2 guys in a car said "follow us". Alexander and Zoran were going fishing and offered us a beer and we could stay in the garden of Alexander's weekend hut. A great wooden cabin on the Danube. We enjoyed cooking in the kitchen, getting water from the pump next door sitting on the porch with our spaghetti meal. They went out until midnight (we were in bed by then) and caught the biggest catfish ever. The morning started with a shot of rakija (kills the bacteria according to Alexander!), so we knew it wasn't going to be a big cycling day. They were going fishing again and made us promise to wait for the family to have fish soup for lunch together. So we enjoyed laying in the sun and reading for the morning and by noon Zoran's wife, her parents and Alexander's son arrived. We chatted, drank beer, chatted some more, the fishermen came back with more fish and they started preparing the food. By 5 pm we were starving and finally this huge pan of fantastic paprika spicy fish soup came on the table. Afterwards big chunks of catfish fried in cornflower and tomato salad. It was definitely worth the waiting and such hospitality! We were waved goodbye at 7 pm for a short cycle to the next ferry port where we stayed in a small hostel.
Almost forgot, before we met the fihing guys we had lunch in a park and noticed the tiniest little kitten, sitting under a tree not moving. Dan went over to it and it moved a litttle, he gave the kitten a can of tuna and some water. We were going to leave, but the little thing dragged itself over to sit under Cliare. Its back legs would hardly work...Dan picked her up and put her in his panier bag. After a lot of talking we finally conviced some locals to take her in and hopefully look after her. We felt really aweful for the little one, guess we saved her from the dogs in the park that the locals said usually kill the cats :o(
The next day we cycled on the southern side of the Danube again and after lunch we met 3 other cyclists: Josh from the UK and Sybille and Michael from Germany with their 2 dogs!  A massive Rhodesian ridgeback in a trailer! We cycled together for a bit and camped in a sailing club. The next morning it was so windy that the sailing regatta couldn't start. We stayed for a bit and left around lunch time, they others were staying for another day because the camping place was nice.
The views got more beautiful by the minute as we were approaching the narrowest part of the Danube: the Iron Gate. A beautiful gorge with high cliffs on both sides and fast flowing water, the border between Serbia and Rumania for quite some kilometers. During Ceaucescu's regime many people tried to cross it to get into Serbia and died.
At the end of the day we entered into Rumania (looking a bit grim with lots of concrete) and cycled into the first town. At the fountain we met Ion and he said "follow me" again... He and his wife Fani invited us into their house for the night! It was so incredible how they helped 2 complete strangers and gave us food, a shower and a bed, very very friendly. We should do that more often at home we thought.
After another day of hard cycling on hills with mental headwinds in Romania we had a rest day in Calafat. A very uncosy border town with not much to do, not much food but at least a communist-era hotel with showers and internet :-)
We took a ferry to Bulgaria and have been cycling there for the last 3 days. We're enjoying the food (yoghurt, salads and grilled meat yummie), the countryside (lots of hills :-() and the people are very friendly. Not as mad hospitable as in Serbia where everyone wanted you to stay with them, but they mind theur own business and are friendly when you talk to them. Or try to talk to them because the language is cyrillic based again (they invented it!) and in the rural areas not many people speak german or english.
We said goodbye to the Danube after about a month and are finding our way through the mountains straight towards Turkey.
The weather has been quite cold for here, 21 degrees, so we're happy with that!
All for now, next big stop will be Turkey in hopefully a week.
bye xx