Well hello there and welcome to another adventure with me, the two wheeled Beelzebub. So what have I been up to, well I recently got into some new fetish….sorry…what I meant to say is Bicycle Touring Apocalypse has been very busy indeed. I recently got my hands on a 4 x 4 VW T25 Syncro and have been selling organs to help transform this overlanding beast into my new home. However, that’s a story for another day and a full blog entry on the restoration will be coming soon! In the meantime I’ve been getting absolutely burnt to s#*t in North Cyprus. Yep, I was kindly invited by the lovely people at Go North Cyprus to document the Kyrenia Mountain range, which is…for the record…one of the most exciting areas for bikepacking I’ve ever explored.
The team at Go North Cyprus were truly superb and offer some great holiday deals, be sure to check them out:
In true Bicycle Touring Apocalypse fashion I planned absolutely nothing, but that’s the way I like it! Perhaps it’s my childish imagination, but I quite like the idea of being washed up on some deserted island, no idea what challenges lie ahead, a two-wheeled pirate, free to roam in search of treasures untold. Translation, I usually get really…really lost. I did take time to download North Cyprus’ version of Ordnance Survey maps from the Kyrenia Mountain Trail Association ( they’re not as detailed, but invaluable all the same ) along with a much smaller scale National Geographic map. I work flat out…evenings, weekends…..sleep…what’s that!? Consequently, I usually have very limited time to pack for each expedition, North Cyprus being no exception. There was under three weeks between finishing my Welsh Coast to Coast and departing for the Kyrenia Mountains....two of which I spent working in London! This left me with a week to write up the Welsh blog entry, relevant reviews, process all photography, edit the short film and crucially tackle the accumulation of washing that by this point posed a genuine threat to humanity. As a result I had just two days to prepare for the trip….ooooops. First and foremost was how to pack the XXL Surly ECR, which is basically the biggest most awkward bike to package in the whole wide world. The ECR is not a cheap ride and I’d highly recommend purchasing a proper padded bag to take it overseas. However, I had no time for any such sensibilities so decided to protect the bike from the often heavy handed nature of luggage control with…prayers…yep…I asked Zeus to look down upon said bike and strike down with great wrath and fury any member of staff who bent my derailleur. Hence, with the protection of the gods I figured there was no need to fret about any substantial padding and opted for a mattress bag and some tufts of underlay….
I arrived at the airport in good time pushing along what looked like a dismembered body through customs. The airline staff looked at the body bag with the utmost disdain…to which I responded with my most angelic smile…unfortunately that just makes me look like Gollum. Finally, after a bit of faffing, the ECR disappeared up the industrial sized conveyer and onto the plane. Six hours later I was waiting for my baggage at Lefkosa airport…and there it was…the bright green body bag…Houston we have touch down. I’m pretty sure my taxi driver double took as I came through arrivals…there was an unmistakable ‘ are you taking the p…..?! ’ look on his face. After a considerable amount of time strenuously attempting to fit the dismembered ECR into the taxi we were on our way....I’d only bloody made it! I was put up in the rather lavish Deniz Kizi hotel and spent the afternoon building the bike in my room whilst taking in the truly spectacular views from my balcony. The Surly had arrived almost unscathed and I can only assume that this one bolt sacrificed itself to save the rest of the bike....
After a much needed nights sleep I absolutely gorged myself on the all you can eat Turkish breakfast at the hotel before setting off on a four hour taxi ride to the most northerly point of the island. My taxi driver was an absolute legend, completely hilarious, although I’m pretty sure he risked our lives about ten times on our way to the Cape Apostolos Andreas. Honestly, the drivers in North Cyprus have no fear whatsoever. As if overtaking on a blind bend wasn’t bad enough, these guys take their sweet time about it, arm out the window, looking at you in mid conversation. I tried to answer his questions, but I spent half the time deciding which Skynyrd song I wanted at my funeral…. ‘ One in the Sun ’…was my final choice. Despite a terrifying game of Russian road-lette we were soon in the most northerly part of the island. The Northern tip is a nature reserve famous for the super tame donkeys that greet incoming visitors. Well, I bloody love donkeys, I think they’re beautiful and for such benevolent creatures exhibit the most amazing strength. Thus, I was very pleased to be greeted by two such rogues, who basically refused to move until we gave them something to eat. Finally, after feeding them half my supplies for the trip we were granted passage. We continued along increasingly derelict roads until we made it to the Apostolos Andreas Monastery. Unfortunately it’s in the process of renovation so I couldn’t actually enter, but it looked amazing. I unloaded my gear, waved goodbye to the four-wheeled grim reaper and headed up a sandy mud track towards the huge dome of rock that marks the most northerly point of Cyprus.
I always get so excited at the beginning of an expedition, heading into the unknown, ready to follow in the footsteps of my ancient Greek heroes. I was alone in the wilderness…no houses…people…no carrrrssss…..errrr….hold the front door?!?! As I approached I was amazed to see someone had managed to rag some poor rental car up the track…my sense of lone wolf….intrepid explorer soon wore off as an English family descended the Cape Apostolos Andreas…all red as tomatoes…chatting away happily…honestly, the English, what are we like. After a quick chat, I pushed the bike up the steep track to the top of the huge dome of rock and was greeted by the most incredible view. It is at this point, I’ll stop my whittering and pass you over to my photography & short film. So sit back, grab yourself a beer and get ready for another Bicycle Touring Apocalypse.
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Congratulations you’ve made it to the end of another Bicycle Touring Apocalypse…I know….you thought the scrolling would never end! North Cyprus has to be one of the most exciting bikepacking destinations in Europe. A network of dusty singletrack through the Kyrenia Mountains, epic medieval castles, unreal food, lovely people and of course incredible weather make this a truly spectacular country for cycling. One thing you must must must be aware of before heading into the wilderness ( especially if you’re wild camping )…and something I did not know about before departing is Brown snakes ( also known as the Blunt-nosed Viper ). I spent the first four nights camping in long dry grass, getting up in the middle of the night completely naked in nothing but a pair of flip flops and generally taking no precautions against a venomous bite to the manhood. Like most animals, the Brown snake just wants to be left alone and won’t strike unless provoked, just make sure you don’t tread on one ( Check out information here & here for more details ). Ah haaaaa…..so you were thinking…perhaps mad old Jack was getting soft…that perhaps he wasn’t risking his life enough these days….well…there you have it….for at least a third of the expedition I’d been wandering around in the pitch black, completely naked and exposed to Dr. Viper’s back street vasectomy clinic….Oh but I hear you exclaim…surely he’d struggle to strike something so small in the dark….well….yes…probably…..but I leave you with this…me…sprawled out…starkers….in nothing but flip flops….bitten on the jewels. This court is now adjourned, verdict…Bicycle Touring Apocalypse.
On a more serious note, I just want to take this opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone who continues to support my work, it really does mean the world. At the end of the week I’m off on a 3000 mile road trip in the 1986 VW Syncro to Barcelona, but will be publishing the North Cyprus film photography blog when I return. I hope everyone has an epic summer. This is Bicycle Touring Apocalypse, checking in, checking out & about to break down…a lot.