I have to admit that writing this blog today is a tremendous effort. For one, I'm uncharacteristically sat by a beautiful swimming pool and I have a gin 'n' tonic by my laptop but it's so hot I'm struggling to be bothered to raise the glass to my lips or throw myself in the water. I'm typing this one fingered with sweat trickling down my nose. It's currently around 41C. Pity me, rainy Britain!
A couple of days ago I made it to the south of Turkey and caught the ferry across to Cyprus, where I decided to take a few days off after three sticky weeks without a rest day. Since descending from the Turkish high plateau (and, believe me, as a cyclist and therefore one who knows, it's hardly a bloody plateau) with its marginally lesser heat, air temperatures have gone all Venusian.
The 1,200-metre descent freewheel from the high 'flatlands' (the one I have to reascend in a day or two) went from generating a cooling breeze to one that felt like an industrial hairdryer in the face.
I always knew that this would be the hottest and hardest part of the trip and so I can't complain too much. Once I've regained the plateau it should be 5C to 10C cooler, which is enough to make it enjoyable again. Until then I will sweat in silence. Except for this blog, in which I will whine like a baby who doesn't realise how lucky he is.
'Except in the large towns, the reaction I get depends entirely upon whether or not I'm on my bike'
Turkey has been a fascinating place, although not what I was expecting. Its towns - even its mid-sized ones - are as modern as any in Europe, for all the negatives and positives that this means. Once you drop under about 20,000 people though, the places can be fairly grim. That's a massive and unfair generalisation I'm sure, but one that has coincided with the places I've seen so far. I could have happily lived in Bandirma or Eskişehir - both towns of a few hundred thousand people - but what felt like hostile stares in small, decrepit towns like Emirdag made me want to leave immediately.
Except in the large towns, the reaction I get depends entirely upon whether or not I'm on my bike. If I walk around town in non-cycling clothes, people generally stay silent and the look seems to ask, "What the hell are you doing here?" On my bike, people call out to stop me, offer me tea or food, ask about my trip or how I'm doing. I'm not sure why the bike makes a difference. Maybe passing through makes me safe.
Ahmed, a Turkish Cypriot bloke I talked to in Nicosia, who'd once had a girlfriend in Preston (10 miles from my hometown of Blackburn), complained about England's multicultural mix ("there are too many different people there"), something I've always seen as one of its biggest advantages. So maybe they like the idea of my visiting but not the idea that I might have moved in. But maybe I shouldn't use Ahmed's Daily Mail views as a yardstick.
'So far, no savagings'
The dogs I'd been warned about haven't turned out to be a problem at all. When I've seen wild mutts I've tended to stare wildly at them, which has made them run away, or I've got off my bike (on the safe side of the bike, obviously) and walked past them. They don't know what a bike is and sometimes give chase but once they realise it's just a normal human they cower, probably as a result of a lifetime of abuse from us. So far, no savagings.
The roads, while still ropey, have improved too. It's odd that the worst stretches were those in European Turkey, where one would expect there to be more money. Either that or I've become used to the poor quality. One saving grace, actually Turkey's biggest saving grace aside from the friendliness of the people, is the width of the roadside verges. These usually keep me several metres away from the trucks and seem to be available everywhere except on the roads in and around large cities, where, admittedly, you most need them, but I'll take 'em wherever I can get 'em.
Pictured: Kokoreç - a delicious, sheep intestine sandwich from Turkey.