1. My inauspicious arrival in Istanbul

The first week of my trip has, much like the unforgiving hills of the Black Sea coast, had its dramatic ups and downs.

The Airport Incident

My troubles started before even leaving Australia when at Melbourne Airport trying to get my bike box onto the aeroplane.

I had decided not to weigh my bike box before leaving for the Airport. I had travelled with a bike before and was almost certainly sure that I was carrying far less this time than I was then. As it turns out I am a bad judge of weight.

My bike box was propped up on the baggage carousel and I was told it weighed 36 kilos. My ticket allows 30 kilos. ‘That’s impossible’ I confidently protest to the Singapore Airlines staff, but after trying the box on a neighbouring scale I concede that it may in fact be me and not the machine that has made a mistake. The box is torn open in the Airport and parts are rearranged, moved to and from my hand luggage. It makes no difference. Parts are split into a second box because the carousel can only handle bags of 32 kilos. I separate my tools, cooking equipment and various nick nacks from the main box – praying they both end up in Ataturk Airport on the other end.

Next comes the long wait to see whether I have to pay the $600 fine – yep that’s how much it costs – in excess baggage fees. I tell myself that money is just a social construct and it only has value if I choose to give it value. Luckily I am flying with my Dad who is on his way to Singapore, regularly flies with the airline and is allowed 50 kilos. They let me off with a warning and I skulk away to departures.

Istanbul, and Theft

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Upon seeing it, the Blue Mosque rocketed up to one of my favourite buildings of all time. It’s scale and proportions are mesmerising. I visited Sultanahmet Square multiple times while in Istanbul but I never got tired of it. An amazing place.
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For most of my time in Istanbul I was living with Warmshowers hosts in Uskudar – across the Bosphorus from the main tourist sites on the Asian side of the city. When it wasn’t raining I was always treated to beautiful misty views across the shorelines while catching the ferry across to Eminönü. Hearing the midday call to prayer echoing out across the river from somewhere on the misty shorelines was one of my highlights of the city.
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You can find anything you want or need in Istanbul’s sprawling bazaars – provided what you want is cheap and plastic, ugly jewellery or street food. If you aren’t shopping for anything there is still great people watching.

My stay in Istanbul was smooth after I moved to Uskudar, but it didn’t start so well.

Before moving to my hosts I was staying in a hostel. The hotel was easier to get to from the Airport and I had booked a big private room so I had space to build my bike slowly in peace and quiet. This led to my second early low point of the trip.

On my first full day in the city I kept my panniers in the (unlocked) luggage locker of the hostel and went out to see the city. It was only a cupboard – sure – but it was inside the hostel behind a door with a pin code. I trusted my fellow travellers enough to leave my things there for a day.

I was out until late so decided to stay one more night in the hostel and move to my hosts the next evening. Upon unpacking my bags for my second night, I realised some things were missing. Other things weren’t where I had left them.

Sometime between 10am and 10pm someone had rifled through my panniers.

Missing were,
1. All my electrical charging cables,
2. Thermos,
3. Speaker,
4. Down jacket,
5. Power bank for my phone,
6. Head torch.

My heart sank and I nearly cried. Discovering this late at night on my first full day in a strange new country left me feeling very alone. Everything was unpacked and checked. I racked my brains to think if I had brought anything else, and thanked whatever gods had made me leave my emergency money, passports, kindle and iPad behind the hostel desk.

After a bad nights sleep and some distraught calls home I set about replacing my stuff and parting with some cash. The thermos and speaker were unnecessary and weren’t replaced, and the rest of the stuff was found around the city thanks to some camping stores in Karaköy. My new head torch is bulky and my new jacket isn’t as warm, but they will both do. It’s all part of the journey I suppose. I won’t let my guard down like that again until I am home.

The next few days I hung out with new friends, watched videos online with my hosts and planned a rough route out of Istanbul and across the country. A lot of time was spent wandering through bazaars and smelling the spices, and watching the fishermen on Galata Bridge.

Along the way my faith in humanity was somewhat restored – but I still hope that whoever robbed me electrocutes themselves on my iPad charger.

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Mahmud is a legend I met through warmshowers. He couldn’t host me but spent a day with me sourcing a decent road map of Turkey and sampling the tea, coffee and food around Sultanahmet. After losing heaps of weight after starting cycling he and his friends are now building a great cycling subculture in Istanbul. He was the first of the trip to take a spin on newly-named Suzie the Soma.
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Blessed with good weather I show Suzie the sights on our final afternoon. We ship out in the morning.

One thought on “1. My inauspicious arrival in Istanbul

  1. I did the Iberian Peninsula and a little bit of Morocco a few years back and looking through your posts is giving me some major nostalgia. ❤ ❤ ❤


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