Unzip to archipelago zip up until rain ceases then ride to a small village where we stop to unpack and dry tents on a school fence local kids rush over enthralled embroil us in a game of football for an hour local man stops to watch invites us for chai it feels like the whole village emerges and approaches and we tell each one what exactly such dirty and loaded up cyclists from England are doing passing through their neck of the woods. After chai we move bikes 3 meters to the local shop recount our story to another dozen people we finally escape stop at a football pitch to cook then make camp amongst nearby hedges as the full moon illuminates guitar sound waves.
We want to stay longer in Izmir to explore doors opened but Cemal has guests coming and needs the space asks us to leave rain weeps its lament of disappointment we are back on the road together after 5 weeks apart we cycle 30km past numerous wedding venues dotted amidst the forests call halt in a boggy olive grove boots sink into the mud as we erect tents rain comes again just as we get in the terrain around us becoming a swamp.
Wake amid the carnage to continue where we left off from last night. Cemal has fled. Bus stop goodbyes in the evening tea mug in hand we wander the streets in hysterics riding the ripples of spontaneous absurdity laughing fit in a market stomach cramps and hyena cackling doubled up gasping for air the clerk perplexed but pleased by our pleasure. Pizza is much needed fuel but still can’t save us crash hard screen wipe system 32 failure pixelated.
Cycle to Alsancak then ferry across the bay to spend hours searching for the little street where Haj’s house and Hussey are to be found. Biker gang reunion business first we get wheels trued at local shop then celebrations commence beers and stories of the previous month’s escapades. Drunk city cycling ferry back to Alsancak and the route to Cemal’s house the fourth time I’ve cycled it deposit steads back to Alsancak buy beers go drink them in an alleyway immediately approached by a long haired, pierced, leather jacket wearing rascal he invites us to join his friends drinking next to us we meet Inci an acidic violinist and others stay with them all night sultry Selin joins us invites follow to psychedelic weekends and trips to a cottage by the sea to surf night disintegrates vague recollections of more people Manu Chau songs and people dancing on cars Ufuk randomly appears we are told somebody was killed in this alleyway in a street fight last week rabble disperses only 3 of us left take taxi home the driver stops to buy us beer we smoke and drink in the back the tumult barges into Cemal’s apartment and we all get to know each other a little better.
Cemal returns invites me to stay longer gratefully accept descend into a squirrel’s crevice everything within arms reach fingers creep from cave scuttling spiders snatching treasure retreat to safety of the shadows emanating guttural moans.
Chores; repacking; attempts to shed all superfluous items. Confirmation of letters received sparks smiles that spread to extremities.
Wearily wither into Balikersir manage to brush teeth while cycling tooth paste blowing white stains all over my shoulders car drivers stare bemused. Train station located clerk reluctant to sell me a ticket because of the bike manage to explain to him in Turkish that I’ve taken trains before with no problem he acquiesces although tells me to buy ticket for bike on train. No one working at the station knows if the bike can go on all just shrug shoulders advise talking to someone else one kind man helps goes to inquire then helps lift bike on train. Journey time is longer than Izmir – Bandirma yet half the distance on board two deaf people sign to each other a young girl sits in the aisle copying their hand movements. Arrive in Izmir in the dark after 7 hours find wifi spot to contact Hussey but laptop dies no choice but to cycle to Cemal’s initially cycle on the bike path around the coast but quickly lose bearings backtrack to train station decide to retrace the route taken in the opposite direction 3 weeks ago. Riding in the dark I follow the 14km route recollection of landmarks confirms direction things get frantic thought of having nowhere to sleep in this vast city of 2 million people strange men eye me up as I struggle uphill heart pounding buses and cars try to run me off the road me shouting cursing everyone trying to motivate myself takes me 2 hours with no address or name of neighbourhood to find the right area then get a little lost locals direct me I tumble relieved and exhausted into Cemal’s flat very thankful to have the key as he isn’t in I feel like a stalker breaking in to cut up his clothes