It’s going to be bloody cold in eastern Turkey. I know this because people warn me about it whenever I tell them I’m planning on riding there. It’s getting a bit boring, and I’m already as prepared – physically and mentally – as I can possibly get. I just want to be out there doing it, rather than sitting here in the warm worrying about it.
One thing far fewer people mention is the Anatolian dogs – great snarling bloodthirsty brutes, who will not only chase me, as all dogs have done to all bikes since the world began, but will also try their very best to sink their teeth into my tender ankles and drag me off the bike to be infected with rabies and eaten for dinner. Never mind cold feet – the thought of being pursued by packs of wild dogs has me shaking in my shoes like I’ve never shaken before.
But most of life’s problems, I’ve found, at least when on the road, can be solved with the acquisition of new kit. This is why I’ve been stockpiling fleece and down and merino for the past few months. Whenever I get a bit scared, I just take my credit card to the outdoor shop, and everything starts to feel a little more manageable. Sometimes I just unpack and repack my bags, and run my fingers through the warm, dry, fluffy goodness of my winter kit. It’s a security blanket.
And today I finally found something I’ve been searching and yearning for for months. A dog dazer. And I’m going to tell you exactly where I found it, in case you’re ever passing this way and want to get one yourself.
You see, lots and lots of cyclists pass through Istanbul on their way east. Almost all of them, in fact. Even though it’s the tail end of the season, I’ve come across almost a dozen. In my hostel right now are a lovely French couple on recumbents and a Swiss chap on a Tout Terrain masterpiece that I find almost as impressive as I do my own bicycle (but not quite Ryan, not quite…). A friendly Belgian with a 1982 Peugeot drops in almost every day, and the lovely Korean couple I met in Croatia came to join our Christmas celebration.
It was quite something.
There are also dozens of people ahead of us on the road, whether by a few weeks or a couple of years, and reading their blogs and books and articles is one of the best ways of preparing myself for what lies ahead. This couple give detailed accounts of road conditions and camping spots throughout Eastern Turkey. This chap has given me some forewarning of what life will be like when I’m camping at sub-zero temperatures. And this blog from 2009 tells me exactly what to expect when I go to collect my Iranian visa in Erzurum. Honestly – how did we ever manage without the internet?
Of course, I am usually far too lazy and selfish to contribute much information of my own to this vast and ever-growing stockpile of common knowledge. But here’s a rare titbit.
If you want to buy a dog dazer in İstanbul, you can find them in an outdoor shop called Meydan, on Kemankeş Caddesi, near the junction with Gümrük Sokak. It’s in Beyoğlu, near the Galata Bridge, next-door to a Turkish delight shop that gives out lots of free samples, and less than ten minutes’ walk from the Neverland Hostel (where I also recommend you stay – they have a nice secure room to leave your bike, a free all-you-can-eat breakfast, and one of the staff is an ex-New York bike messenger, who will lend you tools). As you walk into the shop, turn left, and they’re to the left of the tills, hanging up on the wall. There are loads of other outdoor shops in the area, and they sell most things you could possibly need (though we had trouble finding sleeping bag liners and Thermarest repair kits), so you should be able to stock up on essentials before heading out into the wilderness.
I tried out the dog dazer on an unsuspecting canine on my way back to the hostel, and it works a treat. So now I really am ready to go. Just an overnight coach back to Goreme, and one more day of sitting around, and then – finally! – I’ll be back on the road, and aiming to be in Lahore by the middle of March. (Hmmmm, better give the Routemaster a kick in the pants…)