Diary 13 -31

Day 32 – Silivri – Istanbul – 80km

Not many words could sum up the feeling of arriving in Istanbul but George would like to quote – as he did to the team as they entered the ancient walls of Istanbul – that great philosopher, Arsene Wenger: “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

And he’s not wrong.

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Day 31 – Malkara – Silivri – 140km
It is not meant to be cloudy in Turkey. It is not meant to rain in Turkey. It is certainly not meant to hail in Turkey. On this trip however anything is possible. A thunder storm hit in the middle of the day. So like three valiant knights/three extremely good lightening conducters, we rode out into the distance and continued too until seven in the evening. We really should have brought our barbours.

Day 30 -Alexandroupolis – Malkara – 115km
After numerous Greek salads in the past few days, which were part of our new training regime to become Spartans, we headed for Turkey in bright sun. 50 km into the ride we arrived at the border and, after a brief run-in with military police who objected to his cutting edge filming techniques, the whiff of a Doner kebab was too much to hold anyone back – even Alex who was having tremendous uprisings from the bottom… In fact, though unpredictable, we all think that this condition gave him a tremendous advantage getting up various steep climbs once in Turkey.

Day 29 – Xanthi – Alexandroupolis – 115km

Sorry to repeat a phrase from a previous diary entry but ‘short-cuts never work’! Hving enjoyed a fantastic route down the coast, we left our selves with only 30km to do after lunch. On the map we noticed a non-descript coastal road however which would reduce our journey by 10 km and get us into the destination at lightening speed. Touring bikes, as we soon realised, have little suspension and – what can only be called – a goat path left us with little no sense of humour by the end. Having dodged rutting cows, slid through sheep poo and breifly escaped a local sheperd wielding a knife we arrived 3 hours later.

Day 28 – Orfano – Xanthi – 120km

Easter day was always going to be a bit of a low but heading out today our lives were made worse by Greek Easter tradition. Not only were we totally alone on the roads as everyone was spending time with their respective families but we had to endure the constant smell of hog roasts being cooked in every back garden. Enough to make any man crumble. On arrival in Xanthi we found the closest patisserie with chocolate and approached the counter with the glare of Bruce Bogtrotter.

 

Day 27 – Thessaloniki – Orfano – 120km

The tops came off today and in true style we hit Greece like a trio of fat Brits on tour. Heat has definitely arrived and the midday sun has started to take its toll. Appetite going as strong as ever.

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Day 25 – Edessa to Thessaloniki – 90km – 6 hours

An easy run into the second largest city into Greece was well deserved and it left us with enough time to get to the cinema in the evening. Watching “300” – a herioc tale about a small group of Spartans who stood for freedom and liberty, living selfless lives to ensure the survival of liberty and reason – did not seem too inappropriate to our own tale. It has further convinced us that our true journey has only just started. Just as King Leonidas asked of his people, I would also like to reiterate, “all we ask of you is to remember us”.

Day 24 – Resen to Edessa – 125 km – 10 hours

Hello Greece and hello Greek salads and Patisseries. Getting closer to our final break of the trip the team was in high spirits. This was only slightly marred by Alex who brought up the shrewd observation that none of us looked like we had actually lost weight. George decided to give up chocolate and only eat muesli, Alex has decided to increase protein intake and Freddie – pretending not to be concerned – uses a “loss of appetite in the heat” to expain his dieting.

Day 23 – Tirana to Resen – 150 km – 12 hours

Macedonia was a real treat to get to because there was very little traffic and so we could make decent progress empty roads. If the earth had been a little bit more flat, it would have been a far better day. Again, like Albania, tourists were obviously scarce in Macedonia and we were welcomed warmly by the locals. We even tried a local delicacy for lunch: pork and fried egg pizza. The room was like a sauna in the evening.

Day 22 – Shkoder to Tirana – 120 km – 9 hours

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We learnt that the national sports in Albania are wrestling and weight lifting, so it was not of complete surprise that most people thought – with our newly “ripped” bodies – that we must be locals. They, of course, should not have been fooled by our brazen bodies, bulging muscles and cultured veneers, we were in fact just a trio of grubby englishmen. Road surfaces were a nightmare due to plentiful potholes and by the end of the day, with no suspension, our arms felt like they had been operating a piece of heavy artillery. A pot of Nutella quelled winging to a large degree.

Day 21 – Kotor to Shkoder – 120km -10 hours

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After a ruthless, but picturesque, cycle along the Montenegran coast, Albania was a real shock. Our first impressions were of Shkoder were quickly formed by our entry with 3 other lorries across a wooden bridge – not what you would have expected for the third largest city in Albania. As we got to the other side we were reassured by a sign which said “Istambullie – 1500 km”. Thanks for that. We were startled by the poverty and even the locals asked us why we had bothered to come here if we lived in England. Everyone was in fact charming.

Day 20 – Dubrovnic to Kotor – 95 km – 7 hours

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The mornings events were dominated by drinking vast quantities of water to compensate for the dehydrating excesses of our day off. The problem being that a 5km climb out of the city left no possibility for stopping to relief ourselves. Our mothers always told us that the quick dry towels would be useful and they were not wrong. Fact. Cycling into the bay of Kotor was one of the great sights of the trip which was aided by a fantastic version of “Track of my tears” by Gavin Degraw.

Day 19 – Day off

Day 18 – Opuzen to Dubrovnic – 80 km – 7 hours

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A great philosopher once said “quantity has a certain quality of its own”. How appropriate that Freddie should be quoting Oscar Wilde as we entered the city walls of Dubrovnik, 1000 miles into our trip. The sun has finally come out and we have even learnt how to ride two people on a bike and send the spare bike in the morning to our destination via courrier. Cycling has become easy.

Day 17 – Trogir to Opuzen – 150 km – 12 hours

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“Only me”… George looking like a wet slug near Trogir. We are intrigued what the term “waterproof” actually means when you buy an item of clothing because it seems to be used -in many cases – very loosely. This was in fact the first day that we were refused entry to a restaurant at lunch for being too grubby. We were lucky to find the only hotel in Opuzen and we very nearly decided to take the waitress away in one of our panniers.

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Day 16 – Zadar to Trogir – 120 km – 10 hours

Taking shotcuts never work and usually mean that you have to plug in your Ipod and forget the pain while experiencing continuous incline. George’s damaged Ipod screen meant that the the only playlist he could find was a mixture of Frank Sinatra’s greatest hits and Missy Elliot… The rain continued to pelt down and tested our waterproof jackets and our brakes. Freddie was heard saying – while rocketing down a hill – that you would have thought with the money we paid that our brakes would be at least 50 % effective. They were’nt…
Day 15 – Senj to Zadar – 150 km – 12 hours

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While the wind stopped, the heavens opened and we tested our water proof gear. A conclusion was reached that while waterproof trousers provided temporary relief, in the long term it left the inner groan sweaty and slippery. Lunch was a demonstration that the further south we got, the worse pasta became: a pasta/stew combo left much to be desired. Zadar embraced our sodden physiques with open arms and we were amazed by the length of womens legs: perhaps suggesting that we had got a rotten option being English.

Day 14 – Bakarac to Şenj- 40 km – 4 hours

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Cycling in a head on winds of 130km/hour really cut our “game” in the end and meant that we had to retire early. Alex said that it was probably a good thing because one of his panniers felt much heavier: he could not figure out whether this was due to the wind or whether it was because his other pannier had got lighter.

Day 13 – Trieste to Bakarac – 120km – 10 hours

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Our brief brush with Slovenia was filled with a hog roast and snow-capped mountains. As has happened on other days, our GPS routing decided to take us on the scenic route which preferred going up and over hills rather than around them! We had a well deserved second lunch in Croatia where the dehumanising effects of cycling lead Freddie to forget that it was not normal to take your shoes and socks off in a restaurant and the Manager kindly “suggested” that he put them back on. George caught “man-flu” in the afternoon and did not recover until steak and chips was served that evening.

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22 responses

30 03 2007
Sir Elton John

My dears, Day 15 diary entry is confusing, if not a little naughty; were your groins “wet and slippery” or is this a realistic description of the nature of your “groans”? Also, I don’t know what all this talk about small limbs is about – take me for example, my hands have been a godsend on the piano have they not (and there is a small limbed member in the cycling party is there not who has achieved a measure of success?). I remain proud of you, my boys and look forward to rendezvous Istanbul. EJxxxx

30 03 2007
Harry Stancliffe

Shouldnt “George’s damaged ipod screen” read “Harry’s damaged ipod screen that George borrowed and promised to look after”?

B*stard.

P.S The Sinatra/Missy Elliot mix is my favorite.

30 03 2007
lavinia

ragazzi…. !! i am so impressed you are all still smiling – although kinloch your grin holding that map is worrying… KEEP GOING!! xxxxxx

31 03 2007
david kinloch

Hello, heroes!
Well done! You are doing a fantastic job!
xDad
Note for EJ – Thank you for your continuing interest and support!

1 04 2007
Vixi

Freddie please can you bring me back some ‘long legs’…i want to exchange mine.
also, george….find yourself a girlfriend (i fear you may be a bit of a bad influence).

everyone in oxford is amazed you are all still alive!
you are all fantastic!
lots of love
vix
xxxx

2 04 2007
Dick M-P

Well done. Gather Albania pretty depressing. Think how good rain is for the hair. just to cheer you up, weather forecast your area over Easter is pretty dire! If U can access it, http://www.wunderground.com & type in country required is a good weather site. Love Dick

2 04 2007
sabine

Hi boys,

It looks as if Tyranna is a bit subdued. Do not worry, soon the lovely Turkish women will cheer you up.
We cannot wait to see you all again.
Meryn was about to leave another message regarding the good care he can provide to you all but he was held back by the amount of white wine available for his own use.

Enormous love.

S

5 04 2007
yolaine de L

Bonjour les garçons
Vous êtes parait-il dans une forme éblouissante, vous êtes à bout touchant.
Nous nous réjouissons tous de vous voir dans quelques jours forza forza
ragazzi yolaine L

6 04 2007
Vixi

My lovely fat bottomed boys,
Love the photos……..why so many of you guys peeing? think you have all spent far too much time together!
Less than a week to go before you hit istanbul!…. wish i could be there to watch you all pass out after your first alcoholic beverage…….but hey, i will be in the library thinking of you!
I hear you are going to have to go on a crash diet before you return to oxford?…… (freddie that is why i am not buying you an easter egg).
Good luck for the rest of the journey.
All my love
Vixi xx

7 04 2007
David Furnish

My dears, I am sorry if it was felt that EJ’s message last week was a little inappropriate for a family website. However, the excitement of watching the three of you become plumper and yet more muscular has been difficult to contain. Picture of Freddie, Day 22 must be a highlight although our Daily is still talking non-stop about the dishy guy with the beard. George is. We are so in awe of the distance you have covered and the way you have become men of the world during the course of this epic journey. Rendezvous IStanbul gets closer and closer and now Hurls is back from her honeymoon, we think she may turn up. Kisses, Dave

8 04 2007
puce de l

Félicitations pour votre courage a Alex, je me réjouis de te voir et d’entendre tes récits Bonne arrivée à Istanbul et fêtez bien votre succès. Je t’embrasse
Puce

8 04 2007
yolaine de L

Joyeuses Pâques Vos photos sont superbes Plus que 4 jours!! Le champagne est au frais

9 04 2007
Bigman

how have u guys gotten fatter? unbelievable! keep it up lads and first one in the builders gets to buy me a drink MEH!!!!

9 04 2007
bob geldy

hey mates,
got a bit of hangover, been out all nite and got a bit hammered! peaches and pixie like the look of all of you hunky boys and would love to meet up with you.
wot ure doin is gr8 and only a few more days to go. keep cycling

geldy
xxxxxxx

9 04 2007
BINKY

was just really smooth , i just posted this comment on the diary 1-12!!!anyway wat i ment to say was……………………………

GEORGIE …..TIME IS RUNNING OUT!!id start the crash diet now…..were seeing you on thursday!!!!keep cycling boysies!!!!!!much love xx

11 04 2007
sasa

Boys,
Just a quick one. Are you sure that you do not want to cycle back to Paris now that you know the quickest route? The Elysee Palace is open to you for the night. Anyway I never spend it there as you may know………

Jacques Chirac

12 04 2007
Bigman

guessing ur finished about now well done lads i will leave u with something that i learnt in the sudan…

“God places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight.”

poor bikes having to carry ur fat asses all that way!!

14 04 2007
Sir Elton John

Boys,

Well done!!! You are all absolute heroes…

When can you come our to my place in Weybridge so David and all can give you all your reward?

George, tell your father not to overdo the Turkish Delight.

XXX

14 04 2007
pharaoh

bikers ,
massive huge congratulations. . . . am overjoyed to hear ( or deduct) that you have arrived in three pieces. many many pats on backs all round.
till soon x

16 04 2007
Thomas Adamec

pour Alex et ses amis,

Un immense et tonitruant “Complimenti da Lugano” et je dis “respect” devant la performance et l’effort.

well done to all three of you, I hope to see you all one day soon and share details about this adventure.

Tom

17 04 2007
Sir Elton John

My Dears, The imposter on your website wouldn’t know that we moved from Weybridge a few months ago. And how could I have possibly asked George’s father not to overindulge the Turkish Delight when I am so addicted to it that David orders in special edible floating turkish delight lilos in our pool in Cannes? I am sorry we never made Istanbul and was especially sad to miss the impromptu (and reportedly wild) Dervish dancing on the shores of the Bosphorus led by David and Sabine on the last night. WELL DONE – YOU EXCEEDED ALL OUR EXPECTATIONS. xxxxxx

28 03 2011
Actually Rank

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