Arriving and Parting Ways in Kyrenia
Yves, who is still from France, left on the ferry last night to mainland Turkey where he has to catch another Ferry to Tripoli in Lebanon.
Above: Yves about to leave Kyrenia Port on the ferry to the Turkish mainland
We’d arrived in Kyrenia on the North coast of Cyprus at about Mid day. Yves had a place booked on a ferry to mainland Turkey from where he was going onto Lebanon. I went with him to the ferry terminal, and saw him off but not before getting as much of his travel story as I could over lunch of octopus and other seafood luvlyness on the Kyrenia harbour.
On the morning of July 11 we departed Nicosia (the Greek Cypriot South), crossed the border to the Turkish North. There border between the two had been closed and unpassable for many years after the 1974 Turkish invasion, but has opened in recent years.
We cycled to Kyrenia from Nicosia on what seemed like a perpetual uphill road and until it became very steep. I let him pedal along and walked up the three or so km to the top.
By the time we’d got to the steeper hills that protect the ancient port of Kyrenia from land attacks and cyclists approaching from the south I was exhausted by the ride.
It wasn’t so much the uphill as I was the hurricane force headwinds all the way. It was so intense at moments I had to pedal just to stay in my place and not be pushed backward.
Yves disagreed that the headwind was quite hurricane force so for the sake of accuracy I’ll downgrade it to like a tropical storm but no less.
Wrangling Details from the Couldn’t be Bothered
During our last day together over a lunch of fried calamari and octopus stuffed with garlic and mixed Turkish grills and those lovely fat fries they do here I tried to wrangle an accurate as possible chronological line and scale of his life on the road.
Now Yves is not very big on stats neither is he very big on the technological wizardry that can locate, follow, measure and record in six different formats your every trip to the toilet. I may have mentioned earlier that he only carries an early model Alcatel phone.
So I was not expecting a neatly presented Excel sheet that he’d just updated earlier this morning along with attached Google map GPS coordination tracking and geo pictorial tagging all available on cloud nine.
Neither, as he said, is he inclined to waste such a lovely lunch busying himself answering questions from note taking international men of mystery asking him questions he’s avoided going into a million times before.
As you can imagine, many many people he meets are curious about his travels (a bit like me I suppose) and he’s become adept at dodging recounting his life story a dozen times a day.
However, having spent several days of camaraderie on the road with him and shared a few racontres of my own, particularly that tale about leaving Lebanon as refugees, and by deploying advanced psychological interrogation techniques (some of which are experimental, others controversial, and many of which cause long term psychological damage) – he worked with me.
But first …
The Serendipity of Meeting in Limassol, Cyprus
I’d met Yves outside a bike shop in Limassol (more on this later). The shop was closed and would open in about 15 minutes and I was just loitering and wondering if I should get a beer in this pub or that when he approached, full bearded, bag laden bike and what threw was a plastic vegetable crate attached to the front.
At first sight he struck me as a bag lady sort on bicycle – an impression that lasted all of two seconds as I realised this is a bike traveller.
He stopped, I said hi, he said hi, and I within seconds I’d blurted where did he come from, how long has he been on the road and far has he travelled?
He said he’d set off from Lyon in early April (three months ago almost to the day ) and crossed a distance of 5000 km. He’d visited and crossed Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey, ferried across to the Turkish north of Cyprus and then crossed to the south and run into me in Limassol.
I needed a drink immediately and invited him to join me. Back to this later.
Travel Bug – From Walking to Cycling
Yves’ travel bug started when he was around 18 in France when he went for a walk and came back three months later. Subsequently purchased a bike which allowed him to take his walks to the next level.
During university (where he studied geography – specialising in agricultural cartography (who knew?) and history, he started making longer trips whenever he could. Mainly here were around France and a stint or two into North Africa – Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia etc).
By the time he graduated he’d done some 15-20,000 km on the bike.
After graduating and working a full seven months he got bored and set off again. This is what he calls ‘the long trip’.
This boils down to a seven year journey through Africa then hitching rides on boats from Tanzania to Zanzibar, Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion Islands, The Comoros (and probably some other islands in that neck of the Indian Ocean) ending up in Sri Lanka and onto India.
There was a near shipwreck and a dicey experience with an anti French coup on one of these island nations (who can blame them? I mean being ruled by the French must be quite the bit of bother!) but for the sake of brevity let’s move on.
Alef: Striking calligraphy on the wall of a small cafe between Nicosia and Kyrenia in Turkish North Cyprus
The Rest of that Seven Year Trip
The bit above is about the first ‘alf of the trip about two and a half years.
So financed by a big sale of his artwork to another mad Frenchman on Reunion (didn’t I mention the art bit before?), Yves, bicycle under bum, proceeded forth.
He travelled throughout India and onto Nepal. Yes, he cycled around the Himalayas and traversed them more than once going into China and Pakistan back and been turned back from the Himalayan border on Bhutan (we all know what these Bhutanese are like).
When he said Himalayas I immediately conjured up a lovely image of Yves calmly pedaling up Mount Everest in his sandals and shorts, passing technically dressed climbers in complex breathing apparatus and the onset of high altitude bemusement.
Yves quickly (and rather rudely and unimaginatively I thought) burst that bubble saying by telling me he never cycled up Mount Everest.
He probably saw it from a distance and different sides through his meanderings but somehow never got the chance to cycle up.
Note: In retrospect maybe it wasn’t rudeness, maybe he just didn’t want me saying he’d done it. As if I would.)
He then failed to enter Afghanistan from Turkmenistan, visited all the rest of the so called stans in Central Asia and pedalled his way in a westerly direction – vaguely in the direction of home. Seven years after he’d cycled off.
En route he stopped in Istanbul, met an American, and things got quirky.
Back to Cyprus
We arrived in Kyrenia in the heat of midday. I booked myself into that room with the open shutters top right of the picture below.
And luvly jubly food
While on the roof of the hotel was this Indian restaurant.