Report by Celine
Report # 1: Cracow
I am writing this report from Krakow. I have been on BaltiCCycle for about a month now. Beginning in Aachen on the border of Belgium and Germany. It has been such an adventure and unlike any trip I have done before.
Each day we begin with a map meeting in which we are given an outline of directions, points of interest along the way, and where we will be sleeping that night. Prior to the meetings I never really know what is in store for the day except for random rumours from the group… and even after the meeting I am not always sure of what we are in for as BaltiCCycle time, distances and hill climbs are what we call “elastic” meaning they can often be more that what is predicted! Sometimes the cycle to the next sleeping point can seem like a giant Easter egg hunt – the sleeping point being the Easter egg. We all have maps but sometimes try as we might to follow them we often still manage to get lost. So we try to rely on other “clues” in the hunt, such as local knowledge (not always accurate as Sigitas and others found on their way out from Prague), arrows from the van drivers indicating the camp is close, and “rumours” from other participants like “I heard from so and so we go over the first bridge”. These rumours can be like Chinese whispers and can change as they pass from person to person. We all seem to make it in the end although there has been circumstances of people coming into the camp rather late (such as Valentines at 2:30am one night!).
The sleeping places have been totally out of the ordinary for me. Tonight we are sleeping in a university gym – all 60 of us and we share what I call “open plan” showers. Lets just say we are all getting to know each other here! In Poland alone we have slept in the horses paddock of a castle, a sports field, a school, and the back yard of a charmingly eccentric woman who presented us with cakes and hot drinks she and her family played us music by the fire till midnight! The team that organised the sleeping places here have done an amazing job.
Czech Republic was a little more loosely arranged. A couple of times we were at a loss as to where we would sleep. One of the days was awfully cold and rainy and we were cycling in the country up and down many hills. I was so exhausted that at one point as I sat perched on my bike (stationary) I actually fell off it into a ditch with my bike in tow! When we arrived at the wee village in the early evening we all clamoured, cold and wet, under a bus shelter still unknowing as to whether we would have somewhere to sleep or if we would still have to cycle more. Sigitas, our organiser, then announced that some locals have offered that we can sleep in the home they are renovating – all 40 of us! When I asked Sigitas how he pulled that off he said in his usual relaxed manner “well, you know… you go to the bar… you drink with the locals…”. I love it! The following day was the same predicament – no where to sleep. We had been cycling away and come late afternoon, still with no where to sleep we all end up at the pub. The sun was finally shining so we were in good spirits and trying out some of the local beverages. A few drinks later Janek (a participant) decides to try his luck and asks if we can simply pitch our tents in the bars lawn – and they said yes!
People along the way have been amazingly generous. Especially in Poland where twice we have had meals provided to us (that’s all 60 of us by the way), and a few times locals have called out to us and offered us produce from their gardens. Once a group of BaltiCCyclists came out to discover a local had put cucumbers on their bikes! Even today the Laundromat opened especially so that a few of us could have our laundry done!
So tomorrow we push on. I’ve heard rumours we are to be cycling 100km – so I’m betting it will be 120! Wish me luck!
Report #2: Sighisoara, Romania
Hello BaltiCCycle followers,
In my last report I focussed a lot on accomodation and how we manage to cycle from a-b. This time I will tell you about:
a) fellow BaltiCCyclists,
b) Ukraine and Romania and their combined lack of showers, and
c) my enlarging ass.
So, first off – the people I cycle with. Lately I have been cycling a bit alone to challenge myself to improve my terrible map reading skills. But usually I cycle with fellow New Zealanders Brian and Alison, who share both nationality and love of coffee stops. I also cycle with Julia, my itlaian buddy who is at her element when cycling uphill on her 15 year old 6 speed bike. And sometimes I am with sweet Polish Monika who likes to cruise along at much the same pace as me. I sometimes mix it up a bit. I have found the Germans to be the most reliable of people (like Maria and Hermann, and Micheal and Horst with their personal large maps), as when they say a time or a distance it is in fact as they say. In fact Micheal told me that the word „maybe” does not exist in german language! Peter is a bit of an exclusion to this „reliable” nature of the Germans in BC. He is what I woulddescribe as a ‚think outside the square’ kinda guy, an ‚independent thinker’. When I am cycling along the route I can not rely upon finding Peter for his superior technical skills with bikes for he has a fondness of alternative routes as well as alternative methods of transport. And when he is cyling he can not even be relied upon to keep his clothes on; im sure many of us now have a photo or two of Peter on his bike in his underwear in the rain to share with our family and friends on returning home! Another person I occasionally meet along the road is maria – what a legend – 64 and cycling to Istanbul, and on an absolute tank of a bike. The bike is such a beast of a thing that it has to be pedalled even on downward slopes! She has managed up untill recently to swap bikes with kind Lucus and Arthur, but now as they have left the trip she is back to ‚taming the beast’ herself. I’ve noticed Sonja from Austria (who is always recognisable in her light blue one piece cycling suit which I’ve obsrved also doubles as a swimsuit – in true BC woman fashion) has been supporting Maria lately with this almighty task. Back in Poland I had been occasionally cycling with team Poland – led by Mierteck (sorry that is probably not spelt correctly) and Arthur. They speed along and seem to enjoy ‚alternative routes’ which once led to a 20km detour along a bumpy forest road! Occasionally I cycle with Scotsman Bob, our primary report writer – ‚oh aye’ Bob im talking about you now – but he is more reguarly seen with the many young woman on this trip… or „BaltiCCycle babes” as he refers to them.
Now onto subject B – Ukriane and Romania. They have both blown me awaywith the total contrasts of old and new; new plastered houses with water wells out the front; horse drawn carriages being overtaken on pot holled roads by audis and BMWs; young women in barely – there hot pants and bra revealing tops pranting along negotiating the crumbling or cobbled paths in ther high heels, while older women trod along in slippers and dark coloured long pleated skirts and scarves coveringthir hair.
Mostly people have been warm and have called out or smiled to us as we pass by. Sometimes I feel like I have gone back in time 100 years – like in Ukraine with the people shepharding the animals in the fields with sticks, or women walking cows down the roads. in the fields they still use hand tools to cut the grass. On our first night in Ukraine we stated at a home that used a well as the only means of water supply. Here in Romania seeing the wooden houses with big carved gates, Roma children running alongside our bikes with their dark skin and wild hair, and women flashing gold toothed smiles with scarves in their hair and gold earlings dangling below, with silver domed churches glinting in the distance it is like being on a movie set. Lately as it has been the weekend many of the locals have been sitting outside their homes on benches – men to one side, woman to another, just chilling out and taking in the activity on the street and laughing and waving at the crazy foreigners cycle by… I’ve been just charmed by it all really.
We have had rather diminished showers since leaving Poland. This had led to a wee bit of negativity towards one camp owner on the false pretense of an available shower. I have been avoiding this lack of showers by sleeping elsewhere a few nights as I have a bit of what id call a „princess syndrome”. One of the days though I did not have this option of staying elsewhere and the pure „drama” of going without showering was climaxed for me. on this particular day it rained. I mentioned before how cows are walked along the road and their are horses pulling cariages, well, these two animals shit on the road – they shit a whole lot actually. So this aweful lot of shit combined in the rain to form green\yellow puddles which we in turn had to cycle through, each cyclist one after the other making great shitty fountains behind our back wheels onto the next unlucky cyclist. And which cars also srayed through. I got my bottom half completely drenched in this cow and horseshit rain water, and I’m afraid a fair bit of my top too. Ohh the horror of it all! And then with no shower – or even way to wash at all that night as you can imagine it was not pretty!
Now moving on to subject C – my enlarging ass. those of you who skipped a and b – shame on you! So, I have been cycling now for amonth and a half or so. As I had not cycled eally at all bfore this trip this has been a huge physical adjustment for me to be spending most days grinding away on the bike, often cycling more than 80km a day – and over mountains too – I’ve really been busting ass to do it! I’ve certainly become much fitter and stronger! well, I’d been feeling my body make changes with this fitness and muscle strength. I’d been expecting these changes to be visible… Ok, I’ll be honest I’d been hoping to look like a bit of an action hero! – I’d been imagining noticable, defined muscles. I had been seriously exercising so hard so why not!? Recently I got my hands on a full length mirror. So I stood in front of it in my underwear… Couldnt believe it – apart from small changes (an absurd looking tan line was one of the changes) there was no wonder woman looking back at me! In fact if there was any proper noticable muscle growth (I’m telling myself it is muscle growth anyway) it seems to have been targeted at my ass which has ballooned outwards… hhhrrrrmmm not quite what I had invisaged!
So thats it for now. I’ll be likely to send another email on developments in a couple of weeks.
Report # 3: Bukareszt, Rumunia
Hello again BaltiCCycle followers!
Well, what a week of excitement this has been! In the few days since leaving Sighisoara I have been attacked by a child, climbed a 2000 metre high mountain, cycled along a Romanian motorway, and been police escorted along with everyone else to our campsite outside Bucharest! Whew!
The day of leaving Sighosoara was very peaceful cycling along county roads, passing through many little crumbling old villages. All very nice until I had the unfortunate incident of meeting with the “devil child”. I was cycling along through the country with Monika just ahead of me. All was good, just taking in the scenery. We were coming down a hill when I spotted a child outside a hut with a hose in his hand trying successfully to squirt Monika as she cycled by. So I sped down thinking “this kid is wanting a game” but the kid tried to get in front of my bike so I had to slow right down to not hit him. So then little menace squirted me and then caught me totally off guard by trying to push me forcefully off my bike! He wanted to rob me – the little shit! I was shocked so I simply yelled some useless English words at him which he wouldn’t have understood and cycled off with my tail between my legs completely frightened by the little buggar. What I should have done is taught him a lesson – he was about half my size after all. But instead he gave me quiet a race – chasing after me with this evil little smile on his face trying to catch my panniers, with me cycling as fast as I could up the hill wailing out to Monika like a baby “waaaaaaaaa Monikaaaaaaaaa”! The little devil had me shitting myself!! I was telling some of the group about it later that night and it turns out many people had experiences with this devil child. Apparently an hour or so after my incident with the child Ewa came in contact with him, except by this time the smarty-pants devil child must have decided after all his practice with the other passing cycling tourists that the hose wasn’t quite doing the job so he had moved onto a stick of wood which he used to push Ewa off her bike and then whack her with declaring he wanted money “money-money-money”. He wasn’t aware that Ewa is not a woman to cross and she did not give him a cent, although I’m sure she would have given him a piece of her mind!
Ok, so all this day from Sighisoara Monika and I had been looking out for mountains. We had heard rumours that we would be doing some climbing the next day but had yet to see any sign of big hills. I had just about recovered from my meeting with the devil child and was winding along the last few kilometres when we rounded a bend and I had my second bit of adrenaline for the day – there at the end of a long plain of flat land were these huge mountains. Not just mountains like we had climbed before – these were mountains on top of mountains – a mountain range in fact – it looked so dramatic because it rose so steeply off the flat land in front of it. It was exciting and frightening at the same time. Totally awesome yet I could not believe we would have to climb them…
So, day two we head off to climb the mountain. It was actually fantastic! 1500 metres we climbed in about 30km – so pretty steep. It took me a long time – about 5 hours climbing all the way. But the views and the fresh mountain air was defiantly worth it. What actually was the killer was that once we were mostly down the other side we had to go up then down, up then down and so on for at least 30km to get to our campsite. I was absolutely exhausted by the end.
Day three I was hoping for something a little more subdued. I was thinking 70 km along a flat road… But no. Instead we had rain, two lane highways with frighteningly bad drivers in big-ass trucks and scary-as-hell chasing dogs to contend with. Just when I thought my nerves could not deal with anymore we decided to take an alternative route (why oh why do I continue to think alternative routes will be a good idea?) which led us firstly onto the motorway for 5 km of pure “oh my god I’m going to die” stressed out hell to quieter but totally dodgy small villages along backroads where I was sure we would be robbed and for which for 20 km was unsealed bumpiness. My nerves were just about shot by the end of the day. We arrived at our camp which was on some gritty soil just beyond the road with zilch facilities – just rough camping. And not far from our camp was a gravel pit where trucks were working separating the gravel. All night long they worked sounding like huge monster waves crashing onto rocks. Not a particularly restful sleep after such a day. My all time low was attempting to wash down at the contaminated green/brown river with my bottle of water and having grit blown straight back onto me all the while thinking “you know, some people go on to south of Spain for their holidays and stay in hotels…”.
But to be totally honest despite all that id still trade a holiday in Spain anytime for a BaltiCCycle journey. This weekend we say goodbye to so many people, a few I will certainly never forget and would never have met if not for joining this trip. And even in the 5 or 6 weeks I’ve been on this trip I have had so many fantastic experiences. This week I rode over a mountain for instance – I never would have thought I could do it before now. So I’m still totally stoked on being here. And looking forward (although at times with some anxiety) to what is to come…
Raport nr 4: Burgas, Bułgaria
Since the last email from Bucharest in Romania we have cycled through a beautiful grape growing region in Romania as we headed toward the coast, we slept in a field growing marijuana (which interestingly was land owned by the monastery nearby). We had a rest day in a huge rsort area (we camped) just out of Constanta and joined the throngs of bare chested g-string wearing women and gold necklaced (a la mafia) men to swim in the Black Sea. We then cycled to Vama Veche further south along a highway with prostitutes hanging out on the side, which is a view that has extended into Bulgaria. In Vama Veche it was a bit of a different scene to the previous resort town – the g-stings and the little hot-panties the men in these parts wear were often discarded in preference for nudism. Young grungy people abounded. tents were crammed on every bit of the beach as there was a music festival on, apparently to showcase Romanian music but all i endured trying to sleep in my tent until sunrise was terrible covers of western music – mostly American, often done with a heavy metal or hip hop touch – grating.
I’ve really appreciated being by the coast – it has been great to be able to go for swims and cool off as it is so so hot here. It is almost better to be cycling rather than still as at least you get a bit of breeze. The first day in Bulgaria was one of the best I’ve had on this trip – just gorgeous to be cycling by the sea and it was very peaceful with little traffic the whole day and sometimes i was just on dirt paths. Very nice. And we have had an awesome rest day at a communist style camp by the beach. Not at all like the camps at home in NZ. Just loved getting in the water…
Unfortunately my experience in Bulgaria has been dampened by the terribly dangerous drivers here… leaving Varna was scary as hell. First me and Julia failed to notice we had to cross this huge bridge (typical) and instead went past it into what I imagine is the slum of Varna – this place made Otara (auckland city’s poor area) look glossy. It was awfully poor and such a contrast to the hip, clean, and
seemingly rich city centre. I was almost was relieved to be outta there and back on track until I realised we would have to cycle along the motorway for ten km – over the bridge on a motorway at that! The trucks came so close to me sometimes there force would push me slightly off balance. I had to do deep breathing exercises to avoid an anxiety attack! And to worsen the situation I was behind Julia who was dilly-daddling about cruising along a her usual speed taking in the view, and I couldn’t over-take her on the bridge because of the traffic. Then when off the bridge there was this awful plant with thorns growing along the side – onto the motorway so i had to brush though all this nuisance of a plant as I couldn’t go to far from the edge of the motorway. Hrrrrr fricken hell! I was swearing away to myself and telling off the drivers who came too close (I suppose the drivers were probably saying the same words to me for cycling on the motorway). I was shaking by the end of it! In the last few days I’ve had that many buses and trucks almost wipe me away – one today came less than 20cm from me! Seriously! Scares the living shit outta me had my first flat tyre the other day. Had just completed an exhausting 7 hour cycle over hills, including a 3 hour climb along the highway (I stupidly thought it would be a shortcut to go this route – err wrong). I was in this resort town so went to the bike hire place to ask for help. The young girl in her g-string and bra who appeared in charge told me she would get her male friends to assist me if I paid 20 bucks. I told her a big no thanks and that I would „find someone to do it for free for me” and sauntered off to the phone box. Unfortunately though I had no contact numbers for anyone else in BaltiCCycle to come help me. So after realising this I went back over to my bike (which was positioned beside the g-string woman) and made a show of turning my bike upside down and spinning the wheel round and round inspecting it. Tried to shove some of the bike equipment bits and pieces into the tyre as id seen other people doing to get it off. They fell out. Basically had no idea what I was doing. Eventually after making a big dick out of myself the woman’s friends (who had been watching me) came over and pushed me aside and fixed it with no cost. Stoked! Eventually I will learn to change my own tyre…
Well, that’s it for now. Soon we will be in Istanbul where most of the group will be leaving (sniff sniff). And then about 15 of us will continue down the Mediterranean coast towards Cyprus.
Report nr 5: Istanbul, Turkey
We have made it to Istanbul! Something like 5500km we have covered since Belgium – wicked hey?! That’s like doing the whole length of New Zealand 2 and a half times! Champions huh?!
I was in Istanbul around the same time last year. Nothing much had changed. Same old dirty haired backpackers on their way to or from Asia, same old aging hippies “hanging out”. Same grating levels of harassment from Turkish men – I got the same line I found funny last year – the “oh you dropped something – opps must’ve been my heart” three times. The joke must’ve become a bit of a rage since last year but it has lost its appeal for me. But the great things about Istanbul were also still intact – the blue mosque never fails to impress me; it truly is so beautiful. The intense vibrancy of the bazaars and little stores still left me exhausted but delighted. The same restaurant I loved last year still served wonderful Turkish meals and beautiful views. And every now and then I would meet an utterly sweet Turk who would make me forget about all the annoyance I had felt before.
We all celebrated in style the second night which is the international “car free” day by cruising along the Bosporus with another large group who were all in Istanbul for the annual conference to discuss more environmentally friends means of transport in big cities. There was great food, wine, music, and lots of interesting people to chat with. By the end of the night we were all dancing away… An awesome night.
Now getting to Istanbul – whew! Where do I start?! There was the mountains (we went from sea level to 1500m the first day and continued up and down up and down all the way), the long distances (we clocked 130km another day – as you can imagine we were totally whipped that night), the dirt roads…in fact one of the days a few of the BaltiCCyclists didn’t even make it to camp and some stayed with a Turkish family in another town while others hitched to make it to the camp as they could not make it before nightfall!
It was such a fantastic experience to cycle from Bulgaria to Istanbul on these small wee roads between teeny villages. So quiet mostly on the roads and no other tourists – I’m confident these places do not get a mention in the lonely planet guide. Approaching the villages was quite a sight for me as all this time on the trip when I have first seen a village in the distance it has always had some sort of Christian church propped in the middle – the pointed roofed catholic and protestant before Ukraine then the domed orthodox churches of Ukraine and Romania, all with crosses on the top. Now for the first time I see the mosque sitting in the middle with the shops and homes sprawled around it. Quite a sight. Coming into each village we would be met by many people all curious to get a look at us and ask us where we were from or assist us to find our way. If we would stop we would have a little group gather just to check us out and occasionally someone would have a go of speaking some English of German with us. Very sweet.
As usual for me there was a bit of adventure along the way. Lets just say I had an unfortunate series of events which begun with me getting a flat tyre and finished with a young man following me out of the village and proceeding to interrupt my cycling by grabbing me and trying to get me into a headlock sort of embrace. As he had helped to fix my tyre he was hoping for a payment that was not in the form of money… use your imagination. Clearly the headlock didn’t quite make me swoon into doing what he wanted. Instead he got a firm shove and a whirlwind of whacks and a stack of verbal abuse and rage. Luckily he was not very well built so although he attempted to gain control over the situation he eventually he scurried off looking a little startled. Once I collected myself I went back into the village where I was met with much attention when they realised I wasn’t happy. Cell phones were handed to me, shops doors were opened and I soon had a semi circle of people around me. I told them what had happened via interpretation from a visiting Turk who spoke English and there was a lot of apology and one man offered to take me the 50km to the campsite. Very kind. So, with faith in Turkish men restored I let him take him drive me half the way as I didn’t want “Mr Head locker“ following me again. It was a good choice as I still only arrived at the end point on sunset, and with the attention I was getting along the road being a solo white woman in shorts I would not have been keen to be still cycling in the dark. So, lesson learnt I will now cycle with a companion while in Turkey. Learning to mend my own tyre would be a good idea too… maybe next time 😉
As I write this I am now on a ship on my way to Bodrum on the Mediterranean sea with the 15 remaining BaltiCCyclists. We said goodbye to most of the group this morning and I feel we are all feeling a little lonesome as we are all missing many of them. I am really missing Julia, my main companion of this trip. And of course Brian, Alison, Maria, Micheal and Horst who I have shared many experiences with and shall never forget.
We will be cycling for the next couple of weeks along the coast before heading to Cyprus. I’m dreaming of cycling by the coast, swimming in warm blue water, eating Mediterranean food… should be lovely and relaxing except I have a creeping sensation that more adventures are in store for me yet… this is BaltiCCycle after all!
Report number 7, Turkey
The cycle from the Marmaris Peninsula to Alanya was fantastic! Especially all the cycling prior to Anatalya.
I loved this Mediterranean coast part of Turkey we were in. I loved the landscape with its pines and mountains (yes that’s right– I even enjoyed climbing those mountains) and the bare ochre earth. I loved the coastline, especially cycling along the cliffs overlooking the sea. I loved the warm clear blue sea. I loved the roman ruins scattered about, the tinkering of the bells of the goats being shepherded, the call from the mosques every few hours, the courteous drivers (bet no one was expecting that aye?!), and the food… mmmmm the fooood. But most of all I loved the Turkish people.
The people were amazingly kind and generous. It appeared to me that many of the local people felt somehow responsible for treating us like honoured guests in their country. Especially out of the touristic areas. When I cycled along it seemed like from every third car I would get a “bip bip” beep, or people would stick their heads, or occasionally their whole upper body out of the car to yell out “hello”. I’ll describe one morning I had so you can get an idea of what it was like… So, in the morning as I am about to set off for the day I went out to the shop near the campsite to get some water. The man at the counter offered me half his breakfast so I stayed with him and ate a little. An hour later I was stopping again at a service station for more water (it was super hot for the first part of the trip one time someone measured it was 47 degrees! so half my water went into my mouth and the other half over my head). A family were sitting down to eat breakfast and offered for me to join them. The man at the table told me he thought “all people of the world are brothers” and told me to eat up. After eating with this family I hit the road again only to get 100metres down the road before seeing Sigitis sitting with some locals having coffee. It appears they too had offered him to join them and asked the same of me. Just unreal kindness and generosity as well as a real interest in foreigners. Being treated like “the queen of Sheba” as Bob would say became almost regular along our route.
Naturally for me though no part of this trip could be without a little “adventure”. Later that same day I was asking directions from two locals in a Ute (pickup van). They offered to give me a lift for 10-15km so I jumped in the boot with my bike. Just after I got in one of the men said he had to go back to his house first. Hrrrrrrmmmm. This wasn’t a problem for me until we started to go up into the mountains – quite away from my route – and then onto a dirt track… this was when some anxiety provoking thoughts began to creep in “geez Celine, what part of hopping into the back of a Ute with two men in a foreign country sounded like a good idea you aye? Especially when he drops the “oh, I have to go back to my house first” line… bladdy bla bla” but no, they were not taking me into the ass-end of nowhere to produce yet another missing tourist statistic. The one man jumped out at his house along the dirt track and off we went to where we had arranged I would be dropped. No problem. Goes to show a little trust goes a long way hey?!
Another time I was up in the mountains with the sun on its way down with another 40km to go till camp. The same two guys on a bike had passed me three times hooting and hollering each time and I had begun to get nervous about the possibility of cycling alone – or even worse not alone but with the likes of these motorcycle boys about – in the dark. I had farted about swimming in the sea and eating so had left cycling the second half of the day far too late underestimating how big the mountains we were to climb. Luckily I spotted a van and hailed it down. Firstly they wouldn’t take me as the van was packed with people but after only driving off for five metres they must have seen me looking sorry for myself for they stopped, and then rearranged a few things and people then hoarded me on board and off we went. Another example of kindness from the Turks.
One other slightly different sort of adventure (but equally risky in my opinion) was having my hair done by not one, not two, but FOUR Turkish men! One even took the liberty to give my ears a rather peculiar massage! It was probably against my better judgment to get my hair done in Turkey as it is true what they say about the Turks taking an interest in blonde hair for they decided for themselves to give me the blondest hair I have had since a child! Not exactly what I was after though.
Now as I am writing this I am in a bit of a stink because we are in Cyprus (day 1) but I am not cycling today. I am staying at the home of a friend of one of the organisers for the Cyprus lag. I have bloody tonsillitis again with the added blow of a throat infection –Stink! The route we are doing here sounds amazing and we are (as is the norm for BaltiCCycle) staying at some weird and wonderful places – a monastery one night, a army base another… and talks of planting peace poles, dinner with a mayor, the capital Nicosia being closed off for traffic for a cycling event, parties, Japanese woman feeding us… hope to get better by the end of today as I don’t want to miss a thing!
Report # 8 (and the last) – back in the UK
Hello Baltic Cycle followers!
I am writing this from England. I am sitting in a friend’s home at their desk – that’s right – not an Internet café or in Sigitis’s green foldout chair at a camp – but in a home – like a real house! The life of a BalticCCyclist seems like a dream now that I am surrounded by friends and family and back in the world of central heating, feather duvets and real beds, shopping centres and the London underground. I am having conversations with people about where I will be sleeping two weeks from now – the idea of that was incomprehensible on BaltiCCycle; usually we didn’t know where we were sleeping that night never mind two weeks away! But enough about “life after BaltiCCycle” for I have yet to tell you all about Cyprus.
Cyprus was beautiful! Think pine forests, earthy ochre mountains, and of course the blue Mediterranean all around. There were the usual busy tourist areas with tonnes of Brits but most of the time we cycled in very quite areas with little traffic. We had a great mix of mountains and seaside cycling and we spent time on both the Turkish and Greek “sides” of the island, which was interesting. I really loved it.
We had fantastic local people organising our route around both sides of the island who informed us on Cyprus and it’s history. They organised a great route and accommodation – sometimes even with beds! We did the usual rough camping a couple of nights – once across from a hotel, and another time in the yard of a shop. But we also stayed in a monastery, at a scout camp on a British army base. The organisers also met up with to party and to cycle a couple of days. The final party we had was very special to me. At this party we had both Greek and Turkish Cypriots, Turks, three Japanese woman who had come to plant the peace poles, and of course the range of nationalities of the 10 remaining BaltiCCyclists (Polish, Lithuanian, Latvian, Scottish, and myself from New Zealand). And here we all were drinking together. Then a local Turkish Cypriot from the village nearby came to visit us and started to sing and play music for us – he just came independently to spend time with us despite not speaking any other language than Turkish. I found this incredibly touching that we could all be enjoying each other’s company despite all our different backgrounds – and in the case of the Turk Cypriots, Turks and Greek Cypriots a not so distant history of war and still ongoing tension.
So this is the last report for this BaltiCCycle (BC) trip. I have really loved being part of the BC family for the last three months. It has been awesome to meet so many great people from various backgrounds and nationalities within BC and in the countries we have been cycling through. I still feel so fortunate to have just stumbled upon BC and for the chain of events that led to me making a last minute decision to register and just buying a bike and go. It has been wicked! I have learnt a tremendous amount from the experience and certainly hope to rejoin at a future date for more adventures. I am missing it already. Big thanks to all the organisers and sponsors and of course the number one man Sigitis (“maybe yes, maybe no”) whom I learnt so much from, especially about flexibility and the ability to remain optimistic.
Unitl next time,