Friday, 24 October 2014

The Esentepe Ouch!

Three days ago Cyclops arranged for the marble flooring outside the bike lock up to get wet, creating a skating  rink Torvill and Dean would have been happy with. Hiding behind a bush he waited until until I arrived and promptly fell arse over tit slightly tearing a ligament in my right leg as I gracefully hit the deck. I have been off th ebike for three days as a result. The good thing to come of this childish prank was food, way to much food. A proper cyclist pig out fest in fact. And so it caame to pass that as the dawn broke, I went back to sleep and woke again a few hours later, several tons heavier and ready to roll. Todays ride was chosen to test my leg out on the climbs here. In other words stick two fingers right up at Cyclops. Heading out along the plain I could smell rain. Funny, I thought, I'm not in Spain.

Yikes..I gotta climb over those!

Dismissing this irrelevance I hit the gas and took the right turn at Gonendere and headed up to Tirmen. Here the mountains in front of me started to grow to silly size as the climb started gradually at first.

The villages here are quiet, dogs sleep in the middle of the road and the village tractor drives around them so as not to disturb them. UK drivers take note, this is how it should be. Climbing, the road surface changed to a rougher asphalt. On a climb like this such a surface is fine, I wasn't breaking any world speed records anyway so it was time to park my dainty derriere firmly in the saddle and enjoy the views.

Th rough asphalt road on this climb



The views got better as the the climb progressed. As I rode across the summit the full force of the wind I had been protected from hit me, the clouds appeared and the temperature dropped. As sure sign I had made it despite Cyclops' best efforts to bugger up the indexing on my rear de railer.

Ok on the way up but a little bumpy coming down
A typical switchback here

I turned left and followed the switchbacks down to Esentepe, a small village a quarter of the way down the other side of the Mountain. As I rode through at a 'sensible speed' in excess of 30 mph I the guy I narrowly missed exclaimed in a heavy Turkish accent, " My word, My Word Sir.... is a very BEEEEG Biksiklet!"

Now you insult my bike and you insut me. My first thought was that all other bikes are midget size, my second thought was who the fcuk was this tiny goatherder anyway, and my final thought was to accept the compliment, laugh and continue with my death defying descent from the village of Esentepe to the coast. I chose the right option.

This could kill a cyclist drainage inspector

Arsen Venges next career move

Narrowly escaping serious injury and worse, wheel damage, I just managed to avoid one of Cyclops strategicly placed cyclist traps. A drain cover designed by a peasant of ill repute with an in bred hatred of road cyclists no doubt. This is the only such death trap I have seen in Northern Cyprus, although I have seen several similar one in the south of the  island.

Smelling the Rain

Gradually the smell of rain changed to the sound of rain. Heavy drops hit my helmet with increasing intensity. At least it was warm I told myself and put the pedal to the metal and tried to out run the approaching storm. I was soaked through within moments, my road shoes filled to thr brim with water, as the spray from my front wheel had me wondering where I could get a set of race blade mudguards from in Iskele. Sacriledge!

Waiting for the Rain to stop

The harder it rained the cooler it became. I took a pitstop at the first 'market' store I saw and sat under cover drinking apricot juice and water. Here the entertainment  consisted of four overweight Brits attempting to get the balls out of the pool table. "Oh luv, go ask the geezer why this fing dont take me quid eh". 'Luv' duely obeyed , returning with wise words of wisdom from the 'geezer'. " Shuv a TL in it, it's Turkish innit".
Quietly I placed my helmet back on my head and rode off before anybody figured out I was also English.

Although the rain was easing the wind wasn't. Riding on a perfect surface over rolling hills hugging the northern shore, I passed familier coves, which I have been meaning to go snorkelling in for nearly a month now. I made a mental note to pull my flippers up and get wet. Oh wait a minute, I'm already soaked to the skin. Such are the thoughts of a road cyclist in such moments.

Abandon hope all yee who ride up here !
25% up through a Steamed
 up lens after the Storm

The village of Kaplica had arrived. Cold wet and tired I turned Rubic into the wind and faced the climb of doom head on. I attacked reaching speeds well in excess of 3 mph as I ground my way up this familier climb.

The rain had made the road slippy with mud and my rear wheels span as I stood out of the saddle. Sitting was the only option, and boy did my bum ever wish it wasn't. The climb is beautiful, I call it the 'Snake' because of its endless switchbacks as it craws its way up the steepest side of the mountain here. As I climbed I noticed the yellow flowers were out, and the tress seemed greener in after the summer storm.
A tourist in a rental car waved at me as she came down the 'snake'. At such moment sit's important for a road cyclist to hold his belly in and look, well, 'Unknackered' really. I collapsed in a heap as soon as she was around the first bend!

At the top I gathered my breath, and headed straight out along the ridge. This section of the ride is probably my favourite of all the rides here in Northern Cyprus, well worth the pain on the climb.

Looking back at the Storm and the Mountains

Soon the descent was upon me, flying around the bends and concentrating more on the road than the views for a change due to the slippery surface I flew down to the awaiting plain below, narrowly missing a young boy walking up the hill from school. He cheered me as I nearly killed him. It's nice to feel appreciated.

In Iskele Cyclops had saved his worst until last as usual.  A full on gale force head wind blowing in off the sea all the way back to base camp, a freshly cooked omlette full of all kinds of goodies, a Hot Jacuzzi and cooling swim in the indoor pool. Perfect.

Resort flags in the Wind Cyclops thought was oh so bloody funny! And tonights sunset over the flooded dustbowl fields on the plain.

Monday, 20 October 2014

The long way back from Famagusta

I had no clue where I would ride today when I woke up, so I decided to decide while taking advantage of the excellent yoga class in the gym here at 9am. I've only done yoga a few times before and I enjoyed those sessions so I thought this would be a good way to loosedn up before riding. Little did I know. The class was excellently led and totally highlighted how stiff my body has become as a result of many hours in the saddle. Standing on one leg grabbing the other leg with the other arm in the air, arse up in the air fully stretched forward & failing dramaticly to get anywhere near close to the upwards frog, I realized I would not make a Yogi this year anyway! Having fallen flat on my face in front of a class of expert ladies I decided the best plan was to get back into my comfort zone pretty dam quick, so I kitted up and cycled off in the direction of Famagusta.

I wanted to go the the Bike shop and buy a small bike stand from my friend Kudret. I bought one and will collect it tomorrow sometime, as it's impossible to carry on the bike.

I turned Rubic north out of Famagusta and immediatly we hit a head wind. The wind wasnt gusting, but it was strong enough to be a real pain in the backside. The temperature however was perfect!  I took a few wrong turns in the villages but God Garmin got me back on track pretty quick, until the road on the map simply stopped and ceased to exist in front of me. This isnt uncommon here, so I hastily re planned the route and followed a newer road.

Ploughing up the dust

Still the wind was draining me, it just blows constantly across the vast open plain here having built strength across the sea. I promise I only swore at Cyclops once. I stopped in a small village for a coke and a rest, here the store owner smiled at me as I walked into his tiny run down store, his face leatherd, and hair not brushed in centuries. I bought a pepsi and it cost half of what it does in the petrol stations here. Three young kids stood outside admiring Rubic firing questions at me in Turkish and a million words per second. I really must make an effort to learn some basic Turkish. I am the typical arrogant, lazy English idiot abroad. Shame on me.

What this doesn't show you is the WIND!

The long and winding road

 Much of this ride is not very picturesque to be honest. There is a lot of poverty here and much of the area is run down, with lots of fly tipping and litter adording the roadsides, which I see no point in photographing. I have to say that it's time for a massive litter clean up around this route. The further away from Famagusta I got the better the views became. The mountains loom up in front of you as you ride. Usually I can't wait to get into the mountains here, there are spectacular, but today the wind was killing me and I was pleased I wasnt about to start climbing as well. I finished off the ride next to the pool here with an ice cold carton of pinapple juice, just the job!

Rubic grabbing some shade

This is a good training ride for those needing to train against the wind...ha ha! It's flat and the road surfaces are good all along the route. The traffic in and around Famagusta is like any city, so beware of the odd moment of madness from drivers, and a few potholes, but outside of the town all is once again good. 

As with all rides here, be sure you take plenty of water. 

Sun set over the Plain I just rode over

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Up Down Up Down

This mornings ride was a simple training ride over the local Mountains. I wanted to concentrate on my climbing skills and as such chose a route with a lot (1109m) of climbing, not because I am a masochist, but because its asctually a lot of fun! I also didn't stop for photos on this ride, simply because I wanted to concentrate on riding, and also because I have photographed this route many times before. I took two bottles of plain water and headed of. The climb up from Bogaz took me up the rough asphalt track to the top, here I let go of my brakes and rode the 'snake' rollercoaster ride down to the village of Kaplica on the other side of the mountain. Here I turned the bike around and headed back up to the top, much to the bemusement of the lace seller & the local ladies outside the tiny 'supermarket' in Kaplica! I did see another 'roadie' on the mountain today, they are very rare here. We waved the customary cyclists wave at each other as I flew down the switchbacks towards the northern shore. I felt good on both climbs, I am not built to be a climber, climbers tend to be small and lightwieght. But what I lack in natural build I make up for in determination. I did ok on bothe climbs today I thought, although I do need to lose a few of my 100 kilos. Back at the pool it was good to catch up with a couple of mates here before falling backward into the cool water! Having this route as my 'local loop' is a real joy!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Famagusta floods

Ok it rained a 'little bit' in Famagusta this afternoon! I didnt take this shot, but clearly my decision to buy Mask snorkel and fins last weeks was the right one!

 Rain here is a GOOD thing though, it's dampened the dust and cooled things down a touch, making riding conditions here much better than the extreme heat of recent weeks. The flash flood in the picture is not representative of the countryside here, which is flood free.

Mass war graves, Salamis Ruins, & Bogaz for lunch

This mornings ride was a simple tour around some of the local historical 'interest' sites with my guest Stefan from Zypernbike. Last nights heavy rain had dampened down the dust on the plain here and things were a lot cooler in the saddle. Visiting the war graves along this route is a fairly depressing exerience to be honest. The ride itself is flat and on good road surfaces. Currently the island is looking brown and barren after months of no rain and baking heat. The recent rainfall has benn very welcome and hopefully when I ride this route again in springtime it will be much greener, like it was in April two years ago when I first came to Northern Cyprus. Riding down to the coast we took a visit to the ruins at Salamis where I was just a few days ago. Then a quick ride along the coast up to Bogaz port for a nice lunch in the Taveran style restaurant there next to the fishing boats. Fish kebabs, homous, Tzatziki, Olives, Aubergine dip, Coke and cold water. Perfect. Once again it was great fun riding with Stefan, a good pace and good company.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Route recce

Todays ride started early. I was woken by the usual haunting out of key bellowing from the local mosque here, which is actually a joy to wake up to.

 Last night I had met with Stefan from Zypern bike and over dinner we made plans for test riding a few suggested route stages for possible tours in April 2015. It was fun riding with a top rider and we chatted all the way around in a mixture of Stefans excellent English and my appalling German!

 The route took us out from Bafra inland to DipKarpaz and back in almost a figure of eight pattern. Mercifully today was much cooler than of late and less windy too. Perfect riding conditions. Stopping only once for a coke the ride flew past, riding at a medium pace over rolling hills mostly. The land here is dry and barran right now, but by April it will be green and covered in wild yellow flowers, making this route really picturesque at that time of year.

 Riding two abreast I discovered cypriot drivers are as impatiant as the english drivers, clearly the option to slow down and pass when safe never even enters their heads, anyway, no big deal, and given that 99% of the time they are very courteous I had no problem reverting to single file when I heard a car from behind. A friendly wave usually resulted and life went on safely and happily.

 I rode this ride on an empty stomache and made a B line for a full English breakfast as soon as I got back to base camp. I didnt stop to take photographs today as this was about getting the ride right, rather than recording the experience photographically. I will ride it again soon and take pictures then. Great ride in great company.

 Cheers Stefan!

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Dawn ride

Last night I had a steam bath and a cool swim befor grabbing an early night. I slept well as a result...until the incesent whimpering became less distant in my dream and slowly but surely became reality as I woke. The noise seemed to disappear then increase then decrease until finally it faded, only to be released on an unsuspecting world nine floors below. This I suspected was the sound of  one the resort dogs using the lift.

The good thing about this was that I was wide awake when the call to ride was blasted across the island from the local mosques mega million watt PA system. I reached for my phone and killed my alarm 30 minutes before it was due to go off. This is how my day started in Cyprus!

I felt better this morning, and needed to ride. It was still dark when I left, and COOL!!! Riding with lights on in the dark was almost like being in Engand at lunchtime.

This is what it's like here on Mars
Empty except for the call of the wild animals at dawn


I headed East simply because I wanted to see the Sunrise. The street lamps were on and I found myself in a shadow race, losing it rapidly as shadow rider after shadow rider sped past me. Clearly my shadow is younger, fitter and lighter than me, and no doubt fully breakfasted on Performance Enhancing Drugs. I on the other hand had the excuse of having had nothing to eat yet!

I had no idea where I was going until I saw the sign for my Favorite place here, Kantara. It was a no brainer really. This was my first ride after a bout of sickness and I wanted to take it easy. So I headed up the Mountain.

Why I got up early

Turning inland meant the sunrose over my right shoulder. It was a spooky feeling, very quiet, cool and a little misty. I stopped to take a few shots as the sun came up. As it did all manner of local wildlife burst into life. Birds sang, the local Cockerals cocked , the village dogs barked at the bloody cockeral, and the wild foxes ran through the Olive groves. Two loose dogs came towards me, I readied my water bottles for action and kept riding, as both rolled over and went back to sleep. They had met this lunatic English cyclist before and frankly if he wants to ride up their mountian good
luck to him!

Taking the steeper 'goat track' road up th eside of the mountain I quickly settled into my stride. I am very familier with this climb now and paced myself accordingly. That is cyclist speak for ' attacking the climb like a slug'.

The views along the entire ride are spectacular, but this morning the cool air, the rising sun and the thin mist made them different. I just forgot about my legs and enjoyed the view all the way up to the top.


Here I sat alone in the square for a few moments to rest before riding along the ridge and back down into Iskele via the well surfaced and less steep gradiant found at the end of the ridge to the western end.


Rolling up at base camp, it was 'let's all collect litter day'. I joined a small group of friends and helped collect the litter left by irresponsible workmen and tourists. I despair at people who have no respect for the environment. Perhaps if they actually left the bar and went and saw this island like I see it they would change thier selfish lazy ways. Then again there may be life on the Moon.

Clean it up idiots!

Riding at dawn was a good change of tactic today. It added a new slant on a familier loop for me. This is a good ride for a reasonaby fit rider wanting a degree of climbing. Its not for unfit riders, bar dwellers or selfish lazy litter bugs.