D – 100 (July 2nd – 3rd)

1 long day where I was still shaking off the rest of my temperature, and one really long day entering Istanbul followed the border incident. The roads to begin with were in amazing condition (EU / Turkish joint effort according to the sign), but very up and down. I hit a new top speed of 67kph. There were military zones to be seen all over the place. At the end of the first day I decided to buy some dinner to save me the hassle of cooking After feeling so rough the previous few days, I was in the mood for something relatively healthy and probably meat free. I passed numerous kebab houses, and thought I had cycled past the last place I would be able to buy something that night. Thankfully in the next town, a guy outside some kind of food stand called me over. I told him I was looking for something like healthy like rice or potato; something with a lot of energy. He said he didn’t know if it had lot of energy but he had some kind of Turkish speciality to offer. ‘Try me’. He then whipped out the most foul looking piece of miscellaneos meat going. ‘Er, actually I think I’m alright. Thanks.’ My stomach couldn’t handle that. I thought I would have to pull over and boil some pasta, but at the next town I found a small café type place still open. I ordered a toasty, and what was supposed to be some fried eggs with slices of salami. The toasty was edible but dear God the fried eggs were bad. They were swimming in a half inch of salami oil, and only half cooked. I prodded the yolk and managed about a half fork full. I was difficult to tell, but I think the eggs could well have been off too. I wanted to take a snap because what was served was about as far away as possible from the photo on the menu, but the woman was watching me eat the whole time. Let’s just say this meal set my stomach up really “nicely” for the next day…

I came across a site called ‘The Totally Knackered Tour‘ (UK to Tibet/Kyrgyzstan) when researching this trip. The author wrote about a nightmare road called the D-100 used to enter Istanbul. To quote,

“..the D100, is by far the most dangerous road we have ever cycled. Although it is not classified as such, it is essentially a motorway. The heavy traffic, highspeeds and traffic flow at the slip roads make it extremely hazardous for cyclists. We both thought we were going to die on this road, seriously”.

So this was one to avoid. On day 2 in Turkey, it was all going swimmingly until I got to Saray on the D020 and asked a girl for directions. She couldn’t point me in the right direction, but assured me that it was OK to cycle on the motorways in Turkey. This didn’t seem so ludicrous. I had heard the same from the British family about the motorways in Bulgaria. The Germans had made it all the way to Istanbul the night before, and with the strong head wind that had kicked up the only way I thought I would make it there that night would be to take the best roads. Of course, when I got down to the turning for the motorway there was a giant sign saying no pedestrians, no horse & carts, no tractors, and…NO BIKES!!! I didn’t want to go back to the smaller windier roads because I thought I would never make it. Not only that but the scale of the map wasn’t high enough to be able to navigate these roads without a lot of hassle. And doubling back on myself was out of the question because I had so far to go that day. So I decided to continue in the hope that I could somehow rejoin join the hard shoulder of the motorway somewhere down the line…

You can see where this is going… Basically, after all that advice from Tim Barnes I managed to end up on the D-bloody-100. It was like the Mergez incident at Astropolis ’09 all over again 😉 He was bang on right about what a nightmare it was. There was either no hard shoulder, or a pot-holded gravel track. I perilously stuck to the last half foot of tarmac, eyes glued to the road in front of me. I couldn’t take my eyes off to look in the mirror. If I heard, or rather felt, a juggernaut rumbling behind me it was an instant demotion to the gravel track – if there was one that is. To say I genuinely feared for my life in places would not be an overstatement.

Many many times worse than it looks...

And so it continued… for 90kilometres of hell! As if the D-100 wasn’t bad enough by itself, last night’s egg delight had me dashing for hiding places at 20km intervals. Not at all easy when you’re sandwiched in 5 lanes of fast moving traffic. It got dark around 9ish or something, and the traffic didn’t ease one bit. This was after all the 5th largest city in the world I was cycling straight into the heart of… To cut a long story short, it was about 6 or 7 stressful hours on edge, really intense concentration, exhausting work against a strong headwind, and a prodigious effort not to get splattered by the merciless onslaught of motorvehicles.

At 0115 in the morning I finally arrived in Edirnekapi where I rejoined René and Matze. I kicked myself hard about ending up on that road unnecessarily. Idiot. A word of advice for anyone reading this considering cycling to Istanbul from the West. Unless you have a deathwish, do not take the D-100. At 9.26 hours and 165.4 km this was the furthest I had cycled in a day on this tour, finally breaking the 100mile in a day mileston. What an aptly crazy introduction to this crazy metropolis…

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