Kayseri to Istanbul, Turkey
Number of kilometers: 11,546
Number of countries crossed: 7 (China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Turkey)
We have said before that the joy of bicycle touring comes in the places between the destinations and often not in the destinations themselves. Capaddoccia has been the stand-out exception to this rule. Lying right in the heart of the country is this truly unique space of limestone magic. Postcards don’t do it justice.
We did the well known sites including the Xth century monastery next to the town of Göreme and they were quite a spectacle. The issue was that after so long on the road in such remote places all the tourists were just too much and took some of the magic away from us. We wanted to experience this unique natural phenomenon on our own terms, away from the tour guides and constantly snapping cameras so that night we headed for the hills and camped out on a cliff face a few kms away from the town. We were happy once the tent was up and we were able to relax looking over the ravine in silence, but it was the next morning that brought the real treat. At around 6am we were woken by a strange noise and peeped our heads out of the tent to find not one, not two, but 45 hot air balloons beginning to make their ascent for sunrise. It was breathtaking and we sat for a good hour watching and feeling smug that we had the best seats in the house.
From Capaddocia it was a race to get to Istanbul in time for our family reunions that had been planned months previously. A heavy dose of gastroenteritis for poor Matthieu did not help the cause so it was more of a limp than a gallop into what is truly one of the great cities in the world.
Crossing the Bosphorus with our bikes on the ferry (it is forbidden to ride across the bridge) as the sun set, we felt immense achievement in the knowledge that we had cycled the breadth of Asia on our bicycles. There had been hard days. There had been times when we had thought about giving up. There was a constant feeling of sorrow being away from loved ones. Istanbul, like with many great adventures before ours, represented so much for us having lived in China and now returning home to Europe, it represented the last big milestone of the expedition and the start of a gruelling schedule to get to the various commitments we had lined up on our way home.