Istanbul on the horizon

Our last blog was written while we waited to meet Ufuk, our couchsurfing host in Vize. He was a lovely guy who we ate dinner with before visiting a Turkish tea house. The tea house was a very cool place, busy with people playing cards, reading the paper and playing pool. It was, what Ufuk described as, 'the male emporium' and the focus was the social atmosphere, tea was just an aside. From there we went to his colleague's house, where we would sleep, and after seeing his photos from Everest Base Camp we did just that.

Sheltered from a stormy night, we left the next morning on a busy road and I changed into full waterproofs on account of the spray that accompanied every passing lorry. There were a lot of lorries and they didn't care for us. Finally, however, this busy road came to an end as we left the next town, Saray, and followed a quieter route.

The new road was accompanied by friendly people, mainly intrigued as to why we walked with paddles or offering us lifts to Istanbul. By evening we walked through a large herd of cattle on the road. The two herdsmen and their group of dogs were talkative and friendly, allowing me to practice my poor Turkish, and not long after we set up camp in the roadside scrubland. As we ate dinner one of the herdsmen's intimidating dogs trotted passed watchfully but gave us his blessing to camp. So, as ever, we climbed into the tent and read our books till bed time, 7:30pm.

The next morning was a drizzly one that saw us walk to Safaalar, a small village scattered with piles of firewood. We bought food, drank some complimentary tea, chatted and gestured to local people and filled up our water bottles outside the tall mosque. Not far after we were welcomed, by a road sign, into Istanbul province, a happy sight indeed.

The rest of the day, if I'm brutally honest, dragged on a bit. We walked, lots, it hurt, lots, and by nightfall we compared blisters where we camped in dense trees. Owing to the fact this is a canoeing expedition we do not have quite the right set up for walking. We are both in light running shoes, our bags are canoe dry-bags with shoulder straps which are clumsy on our backs, and after 9 days I am currently on my third and final pair of socks. Yet, with that aside, we somehow find ourselves camping within range of Istanbul city!

We awoke, this morning, from the blister comparing spot I talked of, and walked in thick mist with the head torch warning cars of our presence. As the mist cleared we arrived at Akalan, another pleasant countryside village. Again we bought food, again we failed to order Turkish coffee (and had Nescafé instead) and again we departed having met a lot of friendly and welcoming people, happy to be walking in such a positive country.

As the day drew on the roads got busier and the kilometers ticked away. We had lunch opposite one of the many military bases and chatted about football to an inquisitive soldier. Then, having passed through a large town and enjoyed Turkish sweet cakes, we noticed, on our maps, that Istanbul was looking pretty close. We made another few kilometers and then set about looking for camping.

On the outskirts of the big city camping isn't all that easy to find. We wandered off the main road and found a house with a disturbing amount of dogs. The man there pointed to a spot in the far distance where it should be alright to camp. So here I am, cosy in the tent. On my right I can hear the busy road and the big collection of dogs barking, on my left I can hear the motorway and down where my feet are pointing are the bright lights of the city.

Istanbul is on the horizon, we've set our alarms for early and tomorrow we're going for the finish line. Wish us luck.