The Final Storm
The streets were flooded. Rainwater gushed between them far below my hotel room. Everything grey. The sky. The buildings. The walls around me. I sat and watched raindrops beat the window pane, driven by the howling wind. I was stuck up in the hotel, locked away, unable to cycle for a couple of days. Eating bread. Drinking some Turkish cola drink. Just staying warm and dry. I’d entered the town and the country in darkness. I had no real sense of position or place. The name of the hotel and the town I never knew. From the apartment window, only fog could be seen beyond the fields and through the rain. I had no idea what was out there.
The storm dried out, but the wind increased. I rode into that wind the next day. Wrapped up in thermals, hood down. It was icy, biting and my bike was getting blown about the road like a carrier bag. I could manage only forty kilometres in ten long hours, battered by the gales along straight roads and barren landscapes dotted with only small, clay house villages. It was far more basic than I had imagined. Though I was saved by petrol stations. The petrol stations of Turkey which would go on to be a life saver many times over the next few months. Always with cafe’s selling cheap bean dishes or corba and bread. Often with wifi. It was one day before Christmas Eve and, in a quiet pine forest, icy and layered with white frost, my first days ride in Turkey came to a close. There, I thought of England. I had cycled so far and yet the world around me looked like it could have been any English winter forest. The trees creaked and cracked as the wind brushed across their peaks. On the ground all was still and the final storm of Europe was passing.