Les Alpes!

I was expecting to be able to fill this post with tales of stoic grimacing and creaking knees as we hauled ourselves over this epic range. Maybe the rose tinting has hit extra early but I’m a bit disappointed to report that it all felt quite a lot like fun. Poppet (my bike) had a few words to say about that though!
We traded stories with a couple of French cyclists in Venice who were just staring their journey to India. Taking their advice we island hopped west out of Venice to avoid the reportedly hideous traffic north of the city. Finding ourselves on a peaceful canal-side bike path we stuck with it, and ended up at Lake Garda. Time to bite the bullet and start heading north into the hills we quickly came across another mellow bike path. After months of noisy traffic and crazy drivers this peaceful cruising along lakes and through forests on perfectly smooth tarmac was hard to leave. So we didn’t!
We entered the Adige valley, bordered by dramatic granite peaks and kept on pedalling. Soon enough the first climb started over Reschen Pass, a beautiful Austrian region full of tinkling cowbells and the odd lederhosen. First pass completed we swept into Landeck and Poppet decided to protest with a broken chain. No big deal when you’re in Europe and all that’s required is a lazy lunch until the bike shop opens its doors again. A bit of TLC, tinkering and a new chain and we’re feeling confident for the second and final pass at Ahrlberg.
I guess Poppet was still feeling unloved, she soon started to protest with an ominous clicking and pedal wiggle. Good excuse for another lazy lunch in the beautiful ski resort of St Anton. This time it’s a broken bottom bracket and it ain’t getting better on it’s own. But it’s good enough to reach the pass in time to admire the view with a beer and photo shoot at our final ‘big hill’ of the trip.
Another hole in the wallet and lazy lunch and she’s finally good to go again. Heading west to pick up the Rhine cycle route we passed along the Swiss Lake Bodensee and tried hard not to bankrupt ourselves at the extortionate Swiss prices. Having visited France plenty before we had planned on crossing into Germany and cycling the East bank of the Rhine. It didn’t quite work out that way, France beckoned, and it was lovely to try out our rusty French for some pain au chocolats and 3Euro wine along the west bank.
We cruised up the Rhine (getting the idea yet?!) and into Frankfurt to meet Dani, Oliver, two fabulous warmshowers.org hosts who instantly welcomed us into their family, and onto their trampoline with their two young sons. I’m pretty sure our bikes were happy enough, stashed away with 3 recumbents, an HGHSI and collections of other bikey toys I reckon they shared  a tale or two!

Charles, Pete's operatic companion from the Greek leg, joined us for this section. He's very handy with a bit of fishing line!

Meanwhile, we hopped a flight back to Greece for our cousin’s wedding. A chance to catch up with the family, shower regularly and laze on the beach as well as the usual wedding shenanigans. And an extra shenanigan or two! Pete’s attended a fair few weddings in his professional career. He’s certainly never witnessed the bride, groom, and ushers splashing into the sea from the top table in all their finery. I suspect it wasn’t entirely unplanned, but I definitely hadn’t expected to be collateral damage…ah well, it was getting hot anyway. Definitely our kinda wedding!
And so, with fond farewells, we returned to Frankfurt for the final phase…not long now! :)
km cycled: 9866km so far!
Charles Wenner joined us on this section and is fundraising for “Grandmas,” a wonderful charity that helps kids with Aids in India and provides safe houses for child prostitutes If you´d like to donate, please contact us for their bank information.
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Blissing out with Pete too….?!

Now that blog title I didn’t expect. And I’m sorry that this is starting to get tedious. But it’s just so blimming pretty around here!

It took a few days for us to get back into the swing of things. To find a happy balance between enjoying all the goodies that Croatia has to offer whilst still making some progress, and not destroying our budget. We got there, via some beautiful campsites, dramatic islands, fresh mussels and a couple of ‘big days’. OK, so maybe the happy balance still teeters occasionally…Pete’s guts still produce some unholy stenches, and I’m still a woman!

Trying to describe these couple of weeks would amount to little more than a list of all my usual superlatives, over and over again. You’ve read all that already so I’ll let the photos do the talking and you can find your own words!

We said fond farewells to Croatia’s twinkling waters and crossed the border into Slovenia. It had been a tough climb to get there but the rolling green hills and quaint villages were more than worth it for me. Even though the scenery brought on definite pangs of homesickness! Slovenia is 64% forest land. I am definitely coming back. Pete was nonplussed, I guess that’s what happens when your home base is BC in all its magnificence! No border shenanigans these days, not even a cop as we crossed into Italy and a glorious downhill all the way to Trieste.  An ocean-side pasta and prosecco to celebrate led to some dodgy night riding and slim pickings on the camping front. I suspect we’ll have to get used to that!

Keeping our heads down into yet more headwinds we made it to Venice, or as close as we can afford to sleep, a campsite at Punta Sabbioni across the lagoon from this famous city. The first time we’ve had to pay for camping since we started this trip. But, after 10 days without a shower,  it’s worth every penny! There’s no doubt Venice deserves everything said of it, except that it smells. It doesn’t, at least not while we were there. St Mark’s Square was flooding but no nasty sewer stenches even in 30degree heat. For me, the joy was in all the places I didn’t expect: the ferries, surrounding islands, and church floors as much as the usual tourist sites.

Again, I’ll let Pete’s photos do the talking…he spent 3 days shooting!

Next stop, the Dolomites! :)
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hostage crisis in Albania

by Pete
We’re safely back together, and in beautiful Venice, but here are a few tales from my days in Albania….
Crossing the border  felt like I’d travelled back a few decades, the road turned to gravel and remained that way till surande.  Derelict buildings were everywhere, some obvious relics from recent communist days, others looked as if the bank had just pulled the plug on the project. I also encountered the most dubious of police roadstops and that includes all those in Iran, Iraq and Pakistan. I sped around a corner 5 km after the border and there were 7 men all standing around a landrover looking very bored . It looked as if they had stopped for a picnic ..or fix a flat …who knows so I sped past them. As a I whizzed past, I noticed one of them was wearing a flak jacket with a pistol on his hip and one little badge on his shoulder saying polizia. I was very tempted to just keep on going and play the dumb tourist, but he was armed so I stopped. What a weird police stop, the guy in the flak kacket was about 50 years old and clearly in charge but the rest of them were all wearing jeans, t shirts, trendy puma sneakers and were clearly teenagers. ….maybe this was “bring your teenager to work day” at the local high school ?

They were pretty friendly till one of them noticed the Greek flag on the back of my bike and got out his lighter to start burning it! They always tend to be alarmingly nationalistic near borders so I’ve taken my flag off the bob trailer until the intelligence level increases further up the coast …or I can find an Albanian flag.

all of Europe's old merc's end up here

As I was climbing up to the town of sarande, I passed cows walking down the middle of the street and others in the ditch eating garbage, I haven’t seen this since India ! It was election  campaign night in surande with a boisterous energy amongst the huge crowds that had gathered to watch the show, so I decided to forget about guerilla camping for the night and find a hotel.

um one of us isn't meant to be here

The dogs here seem to have all passed basic human interaction 101 unlike their greek counterparts, so I’ve been able to get rid of my dog defence system that I carried through Greece….stones and a tent pole!

gifts of olive oil for the deceased

My arse is starting to complain after 7000km of abuse. I’ve  replaced my old saddle with a  leather brooks saddle, v comfortable once they’re worn in….but mine isn’t yet, so it’s a little tender down there. I’ll spare you the details but I’ve found yet another use for duct tape !

3 hours up, 20 mins down

Biking up a steep narrow road near Dunnes,  I came across a lovely old lady. She was about 4 ft tall, dressed in black, walked with a wooden cane and was grinning from ear to ear as she walked down the middle of the road. Luckily, as I stopped she came in towards me, so traffic could now pass! We exchanged greetings and she kisses me on the hands and then the cheeks, a very affectionate woman was she. So I gave her a canada pin badge and fastened it onto her lapel. The more we interact, my nursing intuition tells me that this woman is mad as a hatter and has escaped from the old folks home. She laughs hysterically every 20 seconds and constantly wants to kiss me. She then notices my Albanian flag that was given to me in surande and starts trying to take the flag off the back of my bob trailer. I stop her and point her attention towards the nice pin badge I just gave her…..but she’s fixated on getting that flag at any cost. For about 10 minutes we go back and forth, me trying to shift her attention towards the pin badge and then she makes another lunge for the flag! After diplomacy failed, I get firm with her and attempt to walk up the hill, but she sits on my bob trailer ! I get off the bike and start laughing at the absurdity of the situation, I’m in Albania, being held hostage by a senile kleptomaniac on the side of a steep narrow road!!! She then stands up, gets the giggles and goes for the flag again. I’d give it to her if it wasn’t an important safety item, so I remove the flagpole and quickly bike away before she can pull any more tricks on me !!

my captor....oooh what a lovely smile!

Geek facts: including 2 previous trips, Pete’s now cycled 20,000km around the world! 
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Blissing out with Bex and Frank!

A couple of months ago two of my favourite people wanted to book flights to join us on their bikes for the Easter holiday. It was an offer too good to refuse! I guesstimated our projected Easter location and promised to be there, come hell or high water. Needless to say, my guesstimating ain’t up too much, and we were still a long way from Montenegro as their flight date loomed. Time for a bit of cheating I’m afraid, and for a few days it was looking like hell AND high water! 

Bex and Frank, with wine, on the beach....cycle touring as it should be!

A mad dash to connect to a ferry, which didn’t actually exist, so another hare race to the next port for a ferry which was cancelled. Things weren’t really going our way! But, as always, it came together, via a gorgeous day scattering the cruise ship crowds in Rhodes old town, and gawping around the acropolis in Athens.

Another gorgeous campsite in Kotor, Montenegro

Of course, there’d be no cheating for Pete, one of us had to keep up the pledge! So, we said fond, if hurried and slightly inebriated farewells in Athens and I hopped a bus to Albania. Naughty Keara! I was a little apprehensive about my first few days riding solo and it didn’t really help that we’d thoroughly cocked up the gear splitting. Pete ended up with my sleeping bag, I had his bike shorts, and neither of us had the tent poles. Oops! Oh well, a good excuse to find some cheap beds and couchsurfing instead of braving the still-nippy nights with just the tarp and no farting Pete to warm me up!

Croatia does pretty islands, sparkling sea and old towns extremely well!

I’d heard good things of Albania, and its people, but to be honest I found myself a little uneasy there. After the European sophistication of Turkey and Greece, Albania felt like stepping back in time, and space, to a simpler, bleaker, more austere land. People seemed a little suspicious of this lone female cyclist.

Having company means....I can take my top off on the hills!

Crossing the border into Montenegro was an immediate improvement. Quaint coastline, twinkling sea, quiet roads. My kind of cycling! And without worrying that Pete was waiting at the top of the hill I could chat with as many donkeys as I pleased.

I had a few days cruising the coast and checking out some routes and food/sleep spots for Bex and Frank’s arrival. The Montenegrins are sociable, relaxed and friendly folk. A huge cafe culture, and not afraid to press me, a passing stranger on a bicycle, into sharing some rakia at midday on a Monday. Great people, not so sure about their rakia!
Kotor calm

Bex and Frank landed safely with shiny bicycles and gear all present and correct. Thank God! Some excited chattering, bike fiddling and cream egg chomping at the airport then we’re soon on the road. Well, a little 20km of road to the nearest lake-side restaurant and comfy bed. Start as we mean to go on, eh!

Team Gimp!

The following day brought some stoic climbing up beautiful mountain roads while I discovered I’m actually starting to quite enjoy hills. Don’t tell Pete! But especially when the downside is as beautiful as this was…straggly villages, perfect coves, roadside wildflowers…this really is the life! We celebrated a good day’s riding with beers on the beach in the shadow of our conquered mountain.

Team Top!

...and bottom!

The beach beers progressed into a night on the town, and an early morning of red wine and much chatter. I might have broken Frank! Things were not looking pretty for him the following day but the good fella managed a coupla smiles between roadside vomits and even tolerated our uncontrollable giggling at his pain. It went from bad to worse as we approached the tunnel of doom. 2km of choking dust, spookily clattering fans and vicious driving, I could barely keep my bike straight, a lesser man than Frank would have sat down to cry!

Broken Frank!

It was worth every second of tunnel doom for the stunning view as we emerged from its spitting mouth. The Bay of Kotor. One of my new favourite places. Steep moutains drop into sparkling turquoise waters dotted with sleepy villages and a general atmosphere of utter calm. We couldn’t help but stop for a spectacular campsite and more great seafood.


We dragged ourselves from this oasis of peace and headed for Dubrovnik. I’d heard it was beautiful but this place is really something special. Cue more good food, wine, and wandering. We’d been hoping to catch a ferry here to a nearby island but again the ferry Gods defeated us so we had to hop a bus then ferry to sample island life, Croatian style.

Basketball in Dubrovnik old town...overshoot and you'll need a boat and harness to get your ball!

Hvar Island is a beautiful life to visit, probably a little tough to live, but folk have scraped a living from this stony landscape for centuries of lavender, olive and grape production. More recently they’ve managed to attract the swanky yachtsmen to their beautiful harbour. Oh yes, there was another great meal by the water here!

Giant noughts and crosses while stone clearing on Hvar?

We returned to Split for some more sightseeing, and glimpses of an evocatively traditional Easter mass. Croatia is staunchly Catholic, and judging by the number of  young priests here will remain so for a while yet. There was, of course, more great food and wine before fond farewells and I’m riding solo again.

Byebye Bex :(

Not fancying my chances on the speedy, shoulder-less, ocean-side mainland highway I hopped another ferry to the island of Brac. With intermittent rain I didn’t rate my chances for happy nights under the tarp so set up base in the small town of Supetar. 3 whole nights in one place. We haven’t done that since our deliberating in Lahore! I spent the days riding a happily unloaded Poppet in circles around this pretty island and the nights partying hard with some backpackers. The first backpacker boozing of the trip, I thoroughly enjoyed the happy melange of nationalities, ages and experiences at this laid back hostel. From freshman Canadians to a Vietnam vet, everyone had a tale or ten to tell and a local drink or ten to eagerly knock back.

Golden Horn beach on Brac

After climbing to the Adriatic's highest peak I didn't want to double back....but this was getting silly!

I finally ran out of roads, tracks and bulldozer lanes to cruise and dragged myself back to the mainland to meet 2 couchsurfing hosts in the gorgeous beachfront town of Makarska. With great company, an apartment and sea view balcony all to myself this proved a tough place to leave too. An invite to an afternoon Wine Expo and culinary extravaganza seemed a good excuse to spend a morning watching the royals do their thing. 

At the Dalmatia Wine Expo!

The Croatians really know how to live, an afternoon of beautiful wine tasting and scrummy nibbles was followed by a meal from one of Croatia’s top chefs. I couldn’t believe my luck! And all in the company of a happy welcoming bunch of folk, not averse to some rousing singing as the sun went down.

Granny's Prosciutto and Rakia

I tore myself away to ride to another couchsurfer 60km south in the industrial town of Ploce, halfway back to Dubrovnik where I hoped to meet Pete. Duje and his friends took me out to their grandparents village and instantly welcomed me into the gang, with a little compulsory imbibing. We spent the evening checking the quality of his grandparents huge vat of homemade wine, rakia and prosciutto and I discovered the Croatians like to sing even more than the Irish, and with even more rousing melodies. No need to worry about a language barrier when you can just join in the tune and dancing!

Wine...straight from the vat!

A miserable day of rain brought me back to Pete in Dubrovnik, and a crew of 5 French cyclists he’d met, sadly travelling in the opposite direction. Regardless, this is Europe, and it seems the road ain’t gonna be so lonely any more! :)

Viva Croatia!

Facts of the week….

Number of photos here by Pete: ZERO. Sorry everyone!
km cycled: 704km (ok, it was more than a week!)
total km so far: 7962km
NEWSFLASH!!
*DOUBLE YOUR DONATION IN MAY *
A group of Room to Read benefactors are matching all donations made in the month of May, including those made through our pages
These funds will be targeted specifically for girl’s education, something particularly close to my heart these days. You’ll all know I’m no feminist, if the car needs fixing you’ll find me cooking dinner while I rope some fella in to do the work, but this journey has made me so grateful for the opportunities I have thanks to the feminists who went before me. I never fully understood the intense restrictions, particularly on women, that exist in so many parts of the world. It’s got to change, and surely education is the first step.
So, if you can forgive my minor indiscretion, or instead can bolster faithful Pete in his fundraising goals, please think about donating NOW. We promise, barring any major disaster, we will be cycling into Donegal at the end of June so take this chance and double your money for the ladies!
GBP
EURO/DOLLAR
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Greece …and a clash with Zeus

Greece and a clash with Zeus...

We took the overnight ferry from Rhodes and rode into Athens, the
birthplace of democracy, home to the ancient philosphers and today, a
few anarchists . We spent the day strolling the Acropolis, and
then up to the Parthenon for a great view of the city. It might have
been even more impressive if the Turks hadn’t stored their gunpowder
there. In 1687, an explosion at the site, ripped off the roof leaving
us with what we see today.




this 58yr old italian has cycled 100000 km around the world...legend

mmm keara's first cinnabon since India

As picturesque as Athens is, there is an anarchistic sentiment just
beneath the surface. Graffiti covers many shutters and empty wall spaces with anarchy  symbols sprayed on government buildings, signs and banks.
The hotel clerk explained that Greece is going through a lot of
problems right now……it’s located at the arse of Europe, all the shit
ends up here! Post Olympic debt, high taxes, an enormous public
sector that employs one in ten greeks and government debt of 300
billion euro’s….throw a million new emigrants (since 2000)  into the
pot and you’ve got some issues!






h
 

finally we have a tent!

We quaffed some wine in an old town cafe while riot police milled around, then said our goodbyes. Keara headed for Montenegro to cycle with some friends, while I headed for
Olympia to pay my respects to Zeus, the god of all gods according to
Greek mythology, and the birthplace of the Olympic games.

The next day, just as I was checking out of the hotel, I realised that
I missed a rather important piece of kit. The tent poles! No one
knows how but they’ve vanished. After much scouring, I eventually find a shop where the
owner reckons he can get some replacements from
his warehouse after work. Another irritating delay, but fortunately the tent's fully functioning again within 24 hours I'm on the road again. I left Athens with Charles Wenner, a talented opera
singer with a passion for cycling. He had just finished an audition, so
we rode out to Korinthos, 100km away. It was nice to
have some company on what would have been my first solo part of the
trip.

My clash with zeus started early on in the ride out to Olympia.
Cycling along the main motorway, Zeus first appeared in the form of  a
traffic cop. With sirens wailing, he pulls me over and communicates
using wild hand gestures that I must get off the highway, I ask him
why…. its too dangerous. Now at this stage, I’ve biked from India and
I know damn well what a dangerous road looks like and this motorway is
definitely not a dangerous road. It’s shoulder is about 10 feet wide,
the “less dangerous” road that he is sending me to has no shoulder. We
go back and forth for a bit and he begins to understand my point but
he has to do his job and make sure that I get off the highway. …for my
safety. So he escorts me off the highway and I get onto the hideously
dangerous old road…Zeus 1 Pete 0.

The motorway would have taken me to Tripoli then out to Olympia the
most efficient way. ..instead I now have to tackle a few mountain passes
through the Peloponnese range…..where the tour de france teams often
train! By this stage it has been raining for 24 hours, but I suck it
up and start actually enjoying the climb. The road is virtually empty
and winds through lovely quaint little towns surrounded by olive trees
and vineyards. All the shops are closed on Sundays so I do most of the
climb on a loaf of bread and a few snickers bars.

In the afternoon, the cloud and fog descends into the valley and the
rain becomes torrential. I’m drenched to the bone but warm and
charging along with my ipod keeping me motivated. I’m faced with one
final mtn pass and 20 km to get to the next town and I have only 2 hrs
of daylight left. I decide to crank up and then enjoy a big down hill
into Kanvilla…..but Zeus has other ideas. Visibilty goes down to about
20 yards and I hear a big crack of thunder in the distance,…..a
rockslide on the other side of the valley. My ipod then runs out of
juice as I crawl up the steep switchbacks. I'd been climbing for
about an hour when the fog lifts just long enough that I can see
snow up on the pass. A difficult decision, do I throw away the
last hour of climbing and head back to the valley or try and make it
to the top of the pass and down into the valley to find a hotel. I
figure I must be getting near to the top, so I head up into the snow
expecting a downhill around every corner and then Zeus strikes. My bob
trailer tire goes flat just as the rain turns to wet snow…..bugger.  I
start screaming at Zeus, throwing stones at the metal barricade to
make my point! I huddle under a tree and with cold wet hands it takes
me about 30 mins to repair the puncture. With only an hour to go now
before nightfall, I make a decision to bike for another 15 mins and if
the pass doesn’t appear I’ll turn back . Just around the corner, Zeus
relents and  I come across a small empty concrete storage building
with about an inch of goat shit on the floor. I scrape away the goo
and throw up the tent, tear off all my wet clothes and crawl inside
both sleeping bags …very grateful that keara left hers behind in
Athens. I fall asleep thinking what the heck am I doing in a snowstorm
in Greece, in April and surrounded by goat shit! Zeus 2 Pete 0

goat feces n rain!

By morning, the snowstorm has passed and the fog lifts, I was within
500 metres of the pass but had no way of knowing it. A fast downhill
brought me into Kanvilla,  I stop in for water at a gas station and
the 80 yr old owner says “my friend you look cold, you need a greek
coffee, come in”. Within minutes I am served a small cup of
unfiltered coffee sludge and a glass of water to help rinse it all
down…..I was just glad to have something warm in hands. At this stage
I was convinced that I’d left zeus in the mountains…..but he returned
in the form of four snarling dogs. Soon after leaving the petrol
station, a pack of four dogs give chase and surround me. A tight knit
team used to terrorising cyclists, two lil snappers block my path,
whilst the other two attack from the rear. One latches it’s teeth onto
my tent on the back of the bob trailer, whilst the other goes for my
heels. A kick and a flurry of stones keep them at bay till the idiot
of an owner calls his pack in. I push my bike up the steep hill
to the next town and when I get to the top …..my bob tire is flat, a
2 inch nail is buried in my tire …. Zeus 3 Pete 0

I’m fuming at this stage, its still pouring rain and I‘m drenched, so
I  concede to zeus and put my thumb out to hitch a ride to Olympia
100km away. Two hours later no one has picked me up, so at 3pm I am
faced with biking another 100km with no dry gear to change into and a
wet tent covered in goat shit…so I have to make it to Olympia. I’m
eventually rewarded with some long downhills through stunning terrain
then another 30 kms of hills. I’ve been trying to figure out what
people actually do for a living here. For two days now, the roads have
been v quiet, most café’s and hotels seem closed, on Sunday they were
all at church, but today there’s no excuse…..so what on earth do
people do around here. Today’s theory is that they have figured out
how to milk  the EU road grant system. Rather than go around the
mountain, they have maximised the amount of bitumen to lay by finding
the highest mountain and fitting in the most amount of switchbacks possible ….the more road to lay, the more profit to make, and the more knackered I am!

As the sun starts to set, I’m within 10 km’s of my goal, I’m flying
along, giving zeus the big bird…..when my trailer starts to wobble, I
look back and I have another flat. Removing the tire,I find two
separate puncture sites. By the time I repair them, it’s pitch dark
and I ride on towards Olympia …Zeus  4 Pete 0.

petrol stn owner - they like their dogs big out here

the 140 yard dash

The next day, the sun comes out and  I’m able to layout all my gear on
the hotel balcony and go make peace with Zeus. The museum isn’t much,
but the archeological site is impressive, walking around the various
competition arenas you can just imagine the place packed with the best
athletes the ancient Greeks could produce. There was very little mention
of the Olympic games movement today, then again it has come so far
from it’s original ideology that Zeus probably wouldn’t approve..

I lay an olive branch at the foot of zeus and humbly walk
away…..looking over my shoulder, just in case, our trust relationship
in tatters. I leave Olympia the next day with Charles for the ride up
to Patra, 150 km’s away. Charles offers to swap bikes for awhile, I
climb on his little spitfire of a road bike and can hardly ride the
thing…it’s a bizarre feeling with no weight on the bike. I get to hear
his opera talents and wow it’s impressive, checkout his work at



Biking into Patra at 11pm, we get separated as I am escorted off the
motorway yet again. Fortunately Zeus decides I'm forgiven and grants me an event-free ride up to Albania.


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turkey…touring paradise

by Pete

We’ve done it, we’ve reached cycle touring heaven….pheeeow! The Turkish coastline is stunning with lush and craggy valleys, white sandy beaches and that clear turquoise mediterranean that Keara has been dreaming about for weeks. The luxuries that we take forgranted at home are now commonplace. We’re never too far from a gas station with Magnums, drinkable water and clean western toilets (sometimes they even have toilet paper). Wireless internet cafe’s, supermarkets with fresh fruit and vegetables, ATM’s and of course booooze! It’s been quite a while since we’ve been able to enjoy a glass of wine after a days cycle and we are more than making up for it!

weve got our priorities right now

In Alana we took a quick bus detour inland to Goreme, Cappadocia,  home of the strangest landscape full of  “fairy chimneys,” volcanic rock minarets carved out over time from the surrounding sedimentary rock. You might recognise it from the set of Star Wars. Turkish Christians carved many cave churches to worship in until they became a recognised religion in Turkey, unfortunately most of the christian murals have now been defaced. Many other rock chimneys were carved out to house locals and tourists. We had an enjoyable day off the bikes exploring the many caves dotted around the area and then spent the evening at a Turkish Hamam. Hamam’s are traditional bathing houses that include a sauna, full body massage by a hairy sweaty Turk and a cold plunge pool  at the end……ahhhhhhhh!

...yup Im adorable but pls gimme some space ok....just need some me time

this lil guy easily won cutest puppy of the trip

......oooh grumpy face

A fast new road runs along the Southern Turkish coastline,everyday we went for glorious lunchtime swims and most nights we camped on the beach … we even got to erect our tent in some Roman ruins.  That night we were extremely glad of the extra protection, as at 3am, an incredible lightening storm lit up the sky and threw marble sized hailstones down to earth, very confusing to wake up to!

our shelter during a crazy hail storm

hail the size of a malteser

Around Antalya, we hit our 6000 km mark and it was also Keara’s birthday, so we checked into a 5 star all inclusive hotel in Goynuk, where we ate like kings and hung out by the pool doing absolutely nothing. We were expecting the resort to be full of fat drunken tourists  but were pleasantly surprised to see the resort full of  athletes competing in the International Blind Games. A cheerful bunch who led themselves around the hotel, hand in hand, relying on each others instincts and remaining vision to make it to the buffet and back without injury. A funny sight considering the thousands of athletes walking around…….the bar was even more hilarious!

isabelle and us in our team canada outfit...easy access to the buffet!

I met up with my friend Isabelle,  physio for Canada’s goalball team and enjoyed a day with the team learning more about the game. Goalball is kinda like dodgeball and soccer with blindfolds on! These guys are incredible athletes relying purely on an acute sense of hearing and cat like agility. Check it out at http://www.canadianb1lindsports.ca/eng/goalball/index.htm

Canada kicked ass and qualified for the London 2012 paraolympics.

some very tired tent poles...only 80 more sleepies to go!

Keara’s birthday was a blast and included an amazing massage from isabelle (ok I got one too, she missed my bday last year) and a surprise Team Canada mob singing happy birthday to Keara !

spring is here

It was tough to get back on the bikes after 2 indulgent days but we were quickly rewarded by a stop into Olympos, a beautiful beach surrounded by Roman ruins and some great bouldering spots.After an arduous 30 km uphill we passed through the beautiful town of Kas then biked on to Fethiye to take the ferry to Athens, Greece. In Athens, Keara and I will be going our separate ways for two weeks……..dont worry this is all preplanned, no sibling tension involved here! Keara is heading up to Albania to catch up with some friends who are flying out with their bicycles, I’ll be biking up the West coast of Greece to meet her at the end of the month.

Our donations to Room to Read have dropped over the last few weeks, so if you’re enjoying the blog, click on that little blue button and give what you can. Our brother Kevin has very generously offered to match any contributions made in the next week (up to $500) So give now and double the impact….thanks

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April fooled ya….now show us the money! ;)

OK, it was April 1st and we couldn’t resist, but everything in that last blog was true. Except the search and cell bit. Fortunately the cops didn’t search us, and they let us go our merry way without any detention, sadly not into Syria though. Anyway, now we’ve got your attention, it’s time for a bit of a beg!

We’ve cycled over 5000km so far: survived bureaucrats, cops, honking, hills and sore arses. Pete’s endured 500km on a single speed hulk while we both sleep on a piece of tarp on the ground. We didn’t get shot, kidnapped or bombed in Pakistan. Somehow we kept our tongues in our mouths and Keara’s hejab on her head long enough to avoid arrest in Iran too. Iraq was no worries but ironically the stone-throwing kids and overzealous cops in Turkey are proving the most tiresome!

There’s no denying it’s been a giggle! But some days, and cold nights, have been a little tough. In those moments it really helps to remind ourselves we’re not just doing this for fun, honest!

We’d really love to raise 1$ for every km we cycle, and at the very least get a rural school library built in honour of our wonderful cousin Deirdre who passed away in 2007.  This could really really make a difference to those smiling curious little eyes we so often pass by in rural villages.

We’re so grateful to all those who’ve donated already, we had a cracking start from the gates! And also, to the numerous people who have donated their time and support to keep us on our way. Whether with practical help (you know who you are and we love you!) or a little emotional encouragement. Every little comment means a lot to us!

This blog isn’t just an ego trip (or corporate sponsorship beg!) for us, though we’ll admit the process has been more enjoyable than we expected. We’re hoping that by keeping you looking with some stories, and fab photos, you might be more inclined to click on that little blue button to the right there.

Believe it or not over 5000 individual computers have visited this site. A couple of hundred different IPs check it out every week. OK, so we know 190 of these are Mops and Pops showing all their friends and distant family, but there just aren’t that many computers left in Donegal ;) so there’s at least a dozen or so others popping in per week.

So, if work is boring enough that you’ve read this far surely you can spare another minute or two to reach for the wallet and punch in some numbers! Ah go on will ya! We’ve kept up our end of this pledge, it would be so good to see the dollars/pounds/euros start to match our mileage. ;)

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