Already on our day of departure from Istanbul Noemi felt she was getting a cold which got stronger in the next few days. As the bike shop had recommended we took a ferry from Yenikapı to Yalova in order to avoid the bad traffic in Istanbul. We left Philipp and Anke’s place just in the afternoon. Therefore we were able to watch the beautiful sunset during the trip on the boat which took about one and a half hours. When we arrived in Yalova it was already dark and we hoped we’d be able to find a good campsite soon. A bit outside of the city we asked at a house if we could put our tent on the field next to it. But we were unlucky and the woman said we should cycle further. She wasn’t very friendly as other relatives of her told us later who then showed as a place near to their houses where we could camp. When we were almost done putting up the tent, the family of that house came out and insisted that we stayed in their house (they said otherwise they wouldn’t be able to sleep because they’d worry about us). Shortly later we sat in their living room surrounded by at least 7 or 8 family members and friends and were offered some dinner. When it was time for us to take a shower the mother sent all the men in the house (that was everybody except herself and us) outside – probably in order to be discrete. Surprised that all the family and friends were sent out of the house we hurried taking the shower. Later the mother inisted that we slept in her bed while she slept on a blanket on the floor. We didn’t want to accept her offer but weren’t able to convince her that we’d be totally fine with our camping mattresses or the sofa. The next morning we woke up early together with her – she had to go to work and we cycled off.
Because of Noemis cold and the fact we were in an area called ‚The Turkish Alps‘ and the street was leading uphill for several kilometers continuing our travels wasn’t easy that day. After some time a cardriver saw us and stopped and together and with some tetris-skills we managed to put us, the luggage and the bikes in the small van. Quickly we reached Lake Iznik on the other side of the mountain. There we found a place to put our tent in between some olive trees. For the first time in our lives we saw pomegranate and kiwi trees. From people on a tractor that passed us we got some fruit and vegetables. We hurried putting up the tent before the sun went down, as it’s getting quite cold during the nights. During the days it’s still around 20 degrees Celsius which is fine. İn the tent we haven’t felt the cold yet, luckily. The next morning we took it easily as it wasn’t far until Iznik where we were supposed to stay with Soner and his family. We had contacted them on warmshowers which is similar to couchsurfing, just for cyclists. On that day Soner was cycling himself around the lake but was unlucky and had 4,5 punctures! We met him on the way and could help him out once with some tools.
Inci and their son Tibet were waiting for us at home. Among cyclists the three of them are quite famous in Turkey as they are one of the few or even the only family who does some longdistance tours with their kids. They have been nearly to all countries in Europe and Russia. Before that Inci and Soner have also cycled to Nepal starting in Turkey. They have written three books about their adventures. They welcomed us friendly and almost the first thing they said to us was ‚our house is your house‘. As they’re cyclists themselves they know how it is when arriving somewhere and therefore resolved the important things immediately: you can put your bikes and luggage here, the shower is upstairs, and do you need to use the washing machine? We were so lucky having such great hosts, because we needed some time to get better and recover. Shortly after arriving also Laura caught the cold. After that suboptimal start of our journey from Istanbul we were thinking about New Zealand again. But we still decided to go on and not fly yet.
We spent a whole, comfortable week with the three of them, had good food, went for walks at the lakeside or sat there in the evening to watch the sunset. Once we had a movienight and another evening we went with Inci and Soner to an event of the rotary club. The rotary club is a sponsor of them and they went there to hold a presentation about their travels. The event took place in a nice hotel and we got dinner there. A member of the club translated to us what was being said into English for us. As guests of the club that evening we got a pine tree that’s being planted for us in a reforesting project here in Turkey. Mostly recovered we will continue our trip tomorrow, heading towards Cappadokia.