Finally in Toronto, I estimated from the planned arrival time in Istanbul that it would take me four hours or so to deplane, unpack, re-pack, and get to the hostel, and made a reservation at a local hostel with an arrival time of 2 pm. Really, it’s not my fault I was late.
Boarding went as expected, and as everyone settled in I realized I had the row to myself! How cool is that on an international flight! Looks like they filled the plane in from the front, and there are random empty seats around me, but on my own row I have glorious room.
I failed to mention earlier that my flight from RDU > Toronto the toilets weren’t working, but it was a short enough flight to not be an issue.
But the new plane had another issue – the front window was not working. I would normally think a window not working means you can’t see out (important for my pilot!) but in this case it’s some sort of emergency exit, and the functionality is mandatory. Why I don’t know; I certainly don’t want the pilot to get out, and even so there’s an actual door like three feet from the cockpit. An hour later, we learn that the door is out of alignment, the repairs are estimated to take another two hours, and we’re changing planes.
I intentionally picked a flight with only one plane change, to decrease the chance of my bike being lost, and to decrease the wear and tear on the bike. But whatever. It’s not like the box hasn’t already had a hard life with a trip to Ireland and even a trip to Poland (where the box got to be on a different flight and different day *sigh*).
So we deplane (Am I the only one that can hear Tattoo here?). After about 30 minutes, we board again … onto the same plane. Their top-notch mechanics have solved the problem, or they’ve decided in case of emergency to sacrifice the pilot. Either way, we’re underway again.
Except we’re not. A thunderstorm has rolled in, and the storm cell is to take 30 minutes to pass through. Once the storm hits the plane, I can see why, as the storm rages about, at least I’m dry (a happy circumstance I’m sure I won’t always get to repeat this trip). After the storm, we wait another half hour, because the ground crew isn’t allowed on the field when there’s been a lightning strike within five miles, within 10 minutes.
Eventually we’re Istanbul-bound, again. After an appropriately lactose-free meal, I settle in for the quality sleep one can only get on an airplane. My rest is next disturbed by another announcement from the crew. All of the lavatories on the plane have failed (apparently an Air Canada thing?), and we’re diverting to Copenhagen for an emergency landing where our crackerjack ground crew will have the mundane task of unclogging the toilets. Airplane plumbers. Who knew?
The stop is uneventful (if a bit pungent) and again we’re underway. Current estimated arrival time now four hours from the initial plan, and 15 minutes after my planned arrival at the hostel. At this point maybe I’ll get to the hostel before dark.
We spend another 30 minutes on the runway in Istanbul waiting for a terminal, where we a) get to exit from the rear of the plane, and b) get to hike a long way to get to Customs. My on-line Visa fur Turkey felt of little consequence, and given you could buy one before we went to Customs. . . It explains why no one had asked me about my visa previously.
Once through Customs, we get to one of the customary cycle touring adventures – where’s the bicycle. Airport staff delight in making sure my tour starts right off with adventure. Bikes are usually classified as oversize luggage, so they don’t arrive with the usual luggage. The delivery point for oversize luggage is usually hidden somewhere else in the airport. Just to make sure I don’t get complacent, at least once I’ve had the bike wedged onto the carousel.
In this case I asked where oversize luggage would arrive, and was told “right here”. However, I’ve learned to be skeptical. I was at the other side of the baggage claim from where luggage was to show up. And moderately close to the correct carousel I was also told, “right here”. Since the bike is usually the last thing off the plane, long after my fellow travelers have claimed their luggage and moved on, that leaves me plenty of time in this case to wander back and forth between three different locations, checking for when (nay if) my bike arrives.
That’s assuming the bike shows up at all. In my flight home from Madrid > Paris > home (with a three day layover in Paris) the bike never did show up. An issue usually, as the bike box also has my gear. Fortunately my friend Cecile talked her way through Customs to find me, and then offered me a place to stay while I was in Paris, overlooking the Arc de Triomphe. The bike never did show up in Paris, it showed up at home three weeks later.
In this case the bike showed up at location #2, apparently none the worse for wear. A lot of assembly and repacking later, I wandered through Customs and the airport, and prepared to leave the airport.
I dread leaving airports. It’s usually my first time in a while fully loaded (and regardless I’ve been on plane for hours). Airport traffic is intense. I’m unfamiliar with the locals and the traffic patterns. All roads from an airport do their very best to put you on an interstate. None of which conducive to a comforting start. There’s usually a secondary road somewhere, but well-hidden.
In Amsterdam I was standing there, atop the bike, trying to find the best way to leave. I’d just had a cop in no uncertain terms tell me I couldn’t go forward. Then I saw a cyclist riding through a field! Bicycle paths are notoriously hard to see where not adjacent to a road, especially if the grass around it has any length at all. Well, that day I lifted my bike over the fence, walked across the field, and found the perfect path that lead all the way into downtown Amsterdam.
Not so much today. I spoke with a traffic cop, who expressed a fair amount of skepticism (and I think recommended a cab), before referring me onto a path that was the E-80. Hrm. I’ve learned that one place I really don’t want be (and generally am not allowed to be) is the European equivalent of an interstate, and that’s what he was recommending.
So I didn’t listen to him. Some casting about finally found a route onto a secondary highway. As I prepared to pull out, I applied my front brakes, and they locked up. I pulled out my toolkit. The real problem was that I could see the cause of the issue, but had no idea why it didn’t always cause the brakes to lock up. I don’t know exactly how my front brakes work, but the mechanics of a bike are usually basic. After some tinkering, I finally pulled the entire assembly apart, moved things about, and put them back together. They’re still not working right, but it’s improved.
The route into Istanbul was slow. My GPS couldn’t actually find the address of the hostel, so I had to wander in the general direction. Traffic was heavy, but there was (mostly) a bike path once I got closer to the center of town. Then of course the bike path turned into more a pedestrian path. A norm also appears to be running your scooter or even full motorcycle down the same path, in either direction. When I thought I was close, I asked at an information Point, and got directions; I was within two blocks.
Tomorrow’s tasks: Tinker a bit more with the brakes, find a bike shop, and play pedestrian tourist.
But hey, I’m in Istanbul.